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   The Egalitarian Jesus

A Christian Myth of Origins

by Kathleen E Corley

from FORUM New Series 1,2, Fall 1998, pp. 291 – 325.

The feminist project on Christian origins, which really began in the 1970s, has already accomplished much needed corrections to the historical formulations which preceded it. The presence and participation of women in ancient society and religions, including the Jesus movement, has been firmly established; suggestions continue to be made for the agency of women in the development and passing on of gospel traditions. (1) These reflect crucial advances in our discipline, which have had far reaching consequences for biblical studies generally. Continued feminist analysis of the role of gender in the development of gospel tradition will have a tremendous impact on the project of Christian origins overall, and remains crucial to correcting modern discourse on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity as well as exploring the significance of Jesus as a religious figure, which unfortunately often continues to operate at the expense of Judaism.

Since the early 1970s those working for justice towards women and women's equality in modern society and church have claimed Jesus for their side, asserting that Jesus had a special attitude about women's equality. Further, many Christian feminist and womanist scholars assume the egalitarian nature of the Jesus movement, as do Christian feminist scholars engaged in historical Jesus studies.(2) Recently, several prominent historical Jesus scholars have agreed, including Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Robert Funk, Joachim Gnilka, Richard Horsley and Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz.(3) Even the corporate decisions of the skeptical Jesus Seminar reflect this growing consensus that Jesus preached a kind of social egalitarianism that pitted him against the social and religious hierarchies of his day. (4)Notably, Crossan, Horsley, and in some ways, Borg, have in part been influenced by the work of Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, whose groundbreaking book. In Memory of Her, charted the course for subsequent feminist reconstruction of Christian origins and made the claim that the Jesus' movement was remembered primarily as a "discipleship of equals."(5) For once, mainstream biblical scholarship and feminist scholarship find themselves in agreement on at least this one issue: Jesus called women to be disciples and treated them as equals.

However, problems remain with this reconstruction as it stands. In spite of the hard work of certain Christian and Jewish feminist scholars to try to correct the formulation that "Jesus was a feminist'' within a negative Jewish .environment many Christian writers continue to use a narrative of Christian origins that posits a time of pristine origins followed by decay which ultimately serves an anti-Judaic function. The Edenic time of the Jesus movement is followed by a Fall —and the patriarchal Christian church eventually reverses an egalitarian ethic present at the time of Christian beginnings. This narrative, which could be called an apologetic story, or a foundational story, has been labeled by Elizabeth Castelli and myself as a. myth of Christian origins that posits the motivation for modern Christian inclusivity in Jesus' movement and message. (6) Elizabeth Castelli suggests that this reconstruction can be described as a "myth of Christian origins/" in that it functions as a foundational narrative for modern Christian feminism.(7) This is not the first time similar reconstructions of Jesus' relationship to women have been called "myth."(8) In its more extreme forms, this reconstruction of Christian origins claims that the behavior and teachings of Jesus established an unprecedented and revolutionary model for the full acceptance of the personhood of women, reversing earlier Jewish codes which defined women as mere chattel. Many Christian and Jewish feminist scholars, among them Judith Plaskow, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, have challenged the continued tendency of Christians to juxtapose Jesus over against a negative Jewish foil.( 9) However, these efforts have been unsuccessful in overturning what has become the standard reconstruction of Jesus' relationship to women in the context of his Jewish environment. The continued predominance of this understanding of Jesus in the reconstruction of early Christianity in both scholarly literature, seminary classrooms, and the popular press merits further analysis of its apologetic function in Christian discourse, and requires its continued scrutiny in light of new historical evidence.


Most Christian reconstructions of Jesus' relationship to women begin with discussions of the position of women within ancient Mediterranean cultures —usually Greek, Roman and Jewish —which serve as a background for the emergence of Christianity(10) In these discussions the portrayal of women in Judaism is profoundly negative. Ancient Jewish women are described as having no rights in inheritance, marriage or divorce, to the point of being dismissed by their husbands for burning their suppers. These women, it is argued, were not allowed to serve meals or eat with men, and were unduly burdened by restrictive purity regulations surrounding childbirth and menstruation. Not persons before the law but mere chattel, women are portrayed as bang unable to serve as legal witnesses in Jewish courts. Women's roles in Jewish institutions are portrayed as equally restricted, and it is commonly noted that they were exempt from religious obligations to study and prayer, were segregated from men in special women's "courts" in the Jerusalem temple and in "galleries" in synagogues, and were prohibited from studying the Torah as well as from receiving education generally. Furthermore, it is regularly asserted that the limitation of Jewish women to private household roles led to the absence of women from public places, or at least to laws prohibiting men from speaking to women in public, and to the absence of women from all leadership functions in ancient synagogues. Although the diversity of Jewish women's experience is sometimes acknowledged, particularly in the Diaspora, this rarely affects the characterization of women's place in Jewish communities overall. Most often invoked as the culprits in this overwhelming Jewish patriarchy are "rabbis," named either individually or as a group, or implied in a continued appeal to rabbinic sources in the Mishnah or the Talmud. Such Jews, it is suggested, arose every morning to thank God that he had not made them a Gentile, a slave or a woman. (11)

This terrible fate of Jewish women is then compared to that of Greek, Roman and other Hellenistic women, who were also oppressed, but not as badly as their Jewish sisters. During the Roman period non-Jewish women gained more rights in inheritance and divorce proceedings, had a better access to education, and could own, inherit and transfer their property. They are also seen as active participants in various philosophical groups, voluntary associations, and new and interesting religions, such as the Isis cult, in which they even held leadership roles. In contrast, Jewish women were by and large unaffected by the legal and cultural changes that swirled around them, and if they were so affected, it was only in the Diaspora. Palestine is characterized as a conservative enclave or Jewish backwater. Should the possibility of Hellenistic influence be acknowledged for much of Palestine, such influence is then relegated to urban areas, or perhaps to Jerusalem, but is never imagined to have affected rural areas, and especially not Galilee.(12)

Jesus is then placed against this drastically negative cultural context. His attention to the concerns of women is noted, as is his willingness to talk to women or even to touch them in public. Other aspects of the gospels' portrayals are repeatedly rehearsed: Jesus heals women and uses women as examples in his parables and teaching. In a Jewish culture that devalues women, Jesus allows women to be his disciples, even to join his male disciples on their journeys in the Palestinian countryside. Especially popular is the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), which is most often described as showing Jesus' acceptance of a woman as a rabbinical student: in complete opposition to Jewish tradition, Mary sits at Jesus' feet and receives instruction. Jesus' prohibition of divorce is considered equally challenging to Jewish restrictions of women, since it presumes the equal responsibility of both men and women for maintaining the marriage bond. For these and other positive actions toward women, Jesus is called a "feminist,"(13) and his level of acceptance of women labeled "revolutionary," (14) "radical," (15) "unique," (16) "reformational," (17) or even "unprecedented" (18) in the ancient world, especially in Palestine. Even those who do not view Jesus as interested in social revolution still maintain this basic reconstruction in so far as Judaism is concerned.(19) Jesus' treatment of women is thus highlighted over against the bleak and dark context of ancient Judaism, whether it be rabbinic or Palestinian. Thus, according to many Christian writers, the time of Christianity's beginnings was a revolutionary moment that overturned all preceding history of women's oppression.

But this time of pristine origins did not last. This revolutionary teaching is eventually overcome, either by a reasserting of Jewish tradition (especially in the case of Paul),(20) or by the encroachment of pagan or Hellenistic conservatism,(21) or because of the threat of gnosticism, which afforded more roles for women.(22) By the second or the third centuries the reversal is seen as complete. To attain acceptability, the church finally succumbs to the dominant cultural values of the Roman world.(23) The result is the transformation of a social revolutionary egalitarian movement into an institutionalized church controlled by "bishops,"(24) a "male monopoly,"(25) "male hierarchies,"(26) "orders,"(27) or a leadership structure patterned after the "Jewish priesthood."(28) The struggle over the role of women in early Christianity is thus portrayed as an intrinsically Christian struggle over against other cultures, pagan and Jewish alike, which are not afforded similar revolutionary insight.


We have seen this story before. In his discussion of Christian comparisons of early Christianity to the mystery religions, Jonathan Z. Smith has shown that Protestant anti-Catholic apologetics and Protestant historical models shape Christian reconstructions of early Christianity. Pristine true Christianity (Protestantism) gives way to pagan sacramental mysteries (Catholicism).(29) Similarly, Christians appeal to gospel traditions about Jesus as containing the true teaching of the church before it became corrupted into the male monarchical episcopate of Roman Catholicism. Thus, Christian origins is here in part shaped by the rhetoric of Protestant anti-Catholic apologetics. Reformation history is projected back on to early Christian history.(30)

Second, Smith also shows that Christian comparisons between Christianity and its pagan environment claim uniqueness for the "Christ event."(31) Similarly, the majority of Christian descriptions of Jesus' views on women make his views incomparable to all other cultural views about women during his time. While the language of incomparability is most often used to characterize Jesus' death and resurrection, recent reconstructions of the roles of women in early Christianity employ this same language to describe Jesus' attitudes about women. The ontological value of Jesus (i.e., as "revelation") is transferred to the historical level.(32) Jesus is "unique," "unprecedented," or "revolutionary," because his ideas about women set him apart from his environment. This view of Jesus' relationship to women has even filtered into the popular press. For example, according to sociologist and novelist Andrew M. Greeley:

Jesus treated women with so much respect and so much awareness of their fundamental equality that he was virtually unique among the leaders and teachers of his own time. Indeed, some theologians suggest that this uniqueness is in itself enough to prove the special relationship with God that Christianity claims for Jesus.(33) Thus, the Christian theological assertion of the unprecedented disclosure of God in Christ is again transmitted to a historical claim for Jesus in relation to his environment.

Such uniqueness requires isolation. Jonathan Z. Smith has further illustrated the role of Jewish "backgrounds" in Christian comparisons of early Christianity with its social and historical context. Smith writes:

in this latter endeavor, Judaism has served a double (or, duplicitous) function. On the one hand it has provided apologetic scholars with an insulation for early Christianity, guarding it against "influence" from its "environment." On the other hand, it has been presented by the very same scholars as an object to be transcended by early Christianity.(34)

The second function of Judaism, that as a negative foil over against Christianity, has long been noticed as fueling much of Christian feminist discourse.(35) Smith's discussion of the use of Judaism as a vehicle of insulation against "Hellenism" is particularly illuminating in understanding what is ultimately at stake in recent disputes over the Hellenization of Palestine, especially Galilee. Smith shows how theories about the insulation of Judaism from its Hellenistic environment contribute to the protection of Christian uniqueness.(36) Thus, in reconstructions of early Christian origins, Christian scholars often distinguish between the categories of "Judaism" and "Hellenism," as well as between "Palestinian Judaism" and "Hellenistic Judaism." Likewise, New Testament scholars posit a historical development from "Palestinian" Christianity (early, insulated, genuine) to "Hellenistic" or "Gentile" Christianity (late, influenced by its environment). As an inner-Jewish movement, earliest Christianity is also pictured as being culturally distinct from its larger environment, thereby assuring the uniqueness of its message.(37)

Discussions of Jesus' relationship to women viewed in this larger context of Christian discourse on Judaism and Hellenism clearly use Judaism in precisely the same manner. The Judaism of Jesus' day is characterized as "Jewish" not "Hellenistic." In the case of Christian discourse, Judaism must seem utterly "Jewish" and patriarchal so that Jesus can supersede Judaism. However, as research continues to show how much Hellenistic culture in fact pervaded Diaspora communities, "Palestinian Judaism" must also seem free of Hellenistic influence: Jesus supersedes a Judaism which is unaffected by the potentially freer habits of Jewish women in the Diaspora. Moreover, as archaeological evidence continues to illustrate that Palestine was pervaded by Hellenistic culture, Galilee must then be shown as insulated from Hellenistic culture. The pattern continues with the increasing finds of scholarship: the difference between Lower Galilee and Upper Galilee is emphasized, or rural areas are argued to have been insulated from urban areas, and so on.

However, it is possible to recognize regional differences between Galilee and Judea without implying that there was no interaction, travel, or trade between the two.(38) To say that Roman Palestine by the time of Jesus had been Hellenized is not to imply that Jewish culture or identity was obliterated, but rather to illustrate that there was a diversity of Jewish culture even in Palestine, which mirrored a diversity that had always existed in Judaism more generally.(39) There was never a singular monolithic Judaism to begin with. Biblical texts illustrate ongoing cultural interaction between Israel, Judah and cultures that flourished both within their borders and along their borders.(40) This does not mean that there were not strategies of resistance against certain customs or ideas perceived as foreign, especially idolatry.(4l) Post-Maccabean art in particular, while continuing to reflect Hellenistic artistic motifs, also clearly reflects Jewish cultural nuances in this regard, in that it avoids human and animal representation. It is the art of pre-Maccabean Palestine and Late Antiquity, not Second Temple Herodian Palestine, that features extensive use of Hellenistic figurative motifs.(42) The point remains, however, that Hellenistic culture became a part of the cultural mix of Palestine and fostered further cultural diversity by the time of Jesus. Greek language, customs and certain cultural institutions became part of the Jewish cultural landscape hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Continued haggling over the extent of Hellenization does not erase the inscriptional, material, literary and documentary evidence that exists in both Judea and Galilee. For example, even if the population estimates for Galilee have been exaggerated, making a large cosmopolitan environment less likely in this area,(43) and even if we ought not to imagine a full blown capitalist style market economy in ancient Palestine,(44) the evidence of the widespread use of Greek as the dominant, culturally privileged language throughout Palestine, even in Galilee, and the high plausibility that even Jesus was at least bilingual (in Greek and Aramaic) cannot be ignored.(45) Not only do texts like the Wisdom of Solomon or Ben Sira reflect the inroads of Hellenistic philosophy and rhetoric into Jewish scribal contexts, but rabbinic literature also reflects engagement with Hellenistic rhetoric, mythology and culture.(46) The opposition between "Hellenistic" and "Jewish" or "Palestinian" culture is thus a false dichotomy that simply obscures the cultural and religious complexity of ancient Judaism. This cultural complexity also allows for more cultural and social continuity between the Jerusalem church and the Hellenistic mission, as well as between Jesus and Paul. In terms of understanding the position of Jewish women in Roman Palestine, the stakes shaping this discussion are clear. If some Jewish women in Roman Palestine enjoyed the freedoms of other Roman women, then Palestinian Jewish women were not singularly oppressed. If women in Roman Palestine were not singularly oppressed, then Jesus' attitude towards women was neither "revolutionary" nor "unique." However, given the clear apologetic function of this reconstruction of women in early Christianity in Christian discourse, its basic outlines must be abandoned both because it serves a theological rather than historical purpose and because it does so at the expense of Judaism. The reconstruction of the Jesus movement as a time of Edenic equality and egalitarianism for women is a myth of Christian origins, as it follows a set narrative pattern found in other myths of origins. It is therefore not a historical reconstruction of Christian origins. As a historical reconstruction, it is difficult to sustain.


Certain feminist scholars, especially Bernadette Brooten, Ross Kraemer, Amy-Jill Levine and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza have attempted to correct aspects of this reconstruction of early Christianity and Judaism, particularly because of its anti-Judaic bias.(47) These scholars have emphasized the diversity and progressivism present within ancient Judaism, both in Palestine and the Diaspora. Still, in spite of this ongoing discussion among Jewish and Christian feminist scholars, when it comes to Christology, most Christian writers, even certain Christian feminists, still continue to juxtapose Jesus with his Jewish environment. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite suggests that this tendency in Christian theology is difficult to overcome in a society that remains structurally anti-Semitic.(48) Many books promoting Jesus' revolutionary stance in regards to women remain popular in Christian seminaries, particularly books by biblical (Evangelical) feminists.(49) Recent books and articles on women and Jesus or the New Testament continue this trend and assume an outdated understanding of women's role in Hellenistic Judaism.(50) General textbooks now widely used in women's history courses in American universities and colleges repeat the basic reconstruction of Jesus' message and relationship to women outlined above, and clearly juxtapose Jesus with a Jewish environment, rather than place him in a Greco-Roman environment.(51) According to these textbooks, the gospel stories about Jesus reflect a "marked change" and ''break from Jewish custom."(52) Or, Jesus' words and actions in regards to women were "new and surprising," in that he "rejected much that earlier cultures had taken for granted" by preaching "the equality of all believers" in the context of "Roman dominated Hebrew Palestine";(53) "for a brief moment egalitarianism reigned" in early Christianity.(54) Thus, the basic thesis that Jesus had feminist leanings has gone largely unchallenged.(55) This has muted the critique of the mythic function of the "Jesus the feminist" reconstruction in the context of feminist and womanist Christological constructions(56) and contributed to the continued assumption of the basic outlines of this thesis in women's history textbooks.(57)

The most significant advance from the "Jesus the Feminist" reconstructions of the 1970s is the work of Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. In her book In Memory of Her, Schussler Fiorenza was the first to begin a reconstruction of early Christian origins from a critical feminist perspective with the assumption of women's active agency in early Judaism and Christianity. She also included a critique of anti-Judaism in Christian feminist discourse. Since the publication of In Memory of Her, new information about women in Hellenistic Judaism has confirmed her assumption of a progressive tendency within ancient Judaism. Following her lead, many Christian writers and biblical scholars now modify, or at least nuance their discussions comparing Judaism and early Christianity.(58) Certain Christian feminist and womanist theologians in particular now modify their Christological formulations.(59) Continued research into Hellenistic Jewish women's history has buttressed such modifications. Recent scholarship provides an analysis of the images of women in Jewish Hellenistic literature and documentary sources, and brings a continued challenge to the uncritical use of Rabbinic sources. Many scholars of Hellenistic Judaism now argue that these sources, reflecting as they do later halakhic ideals, do not reflect first-century Jewish and Palestinian practice,(60) and in any case they contain diverse opinions on women's roles.(61)

However, in spite of Schussler Fiorenza's intentions to the contrary, the reconstruction of Jesus' movement in In Memory of Her still functions to reinforce the ''Jesus the feminist" model that preceded her.(62) First, Schussler Fiorenza still sets Jesus apart from his environment and does so to make a theological point in order to establish a foundation for modern feminist theology in biblical theology As such, her reconstruction functions as a foundational narrative for modern Christian feminism, as Elizabeth Castelli has suggested.(63) Second, although Schussler Fiorenza claims that Jesus' movement was one among several renewal movements of his time, Schussler Fiorenza identifies no other comparable renewal movement within ancient Judaism.(64) Nor does she document the "critical feminist impulse" or the "emancipatory Jewish framework" that her own work presupposed,(65) saving an appeal to the book of Judith.(66) Judith is not only a fictional work that may tell us little about the lives of real ancient Jewish women, but is a narrative that leaves us with a domesticated heroine by the end of the story.(67) This leaves Jesus' "discipleship of equals" without parallel in first-century Palestine.(68) Third, Schussler Fiorenza still juxtaposes Jesus over against Judaism by emphasizing Jesus' rejection of Jewish purity regulations, particularly in his open table practice. According to Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus' Sophia-inspired message fostered an inclusive community of the Kingdom for all Israelites. Jesus preached "wholeness" in contrast to "holiness:" "Not the holiness of the elect but the wholeness of all is the central vision of Jesus."(69) It is this central egalitarian message that forms the ultimate basis for early Christian equality "in Christ."(70) Fourth, if Jesus preached an explicitly egalitarian message that benefited women, this would not make him necessarily un-Jewish, given the social and religious environment I will outline. However, it is doubtful that Jesus' message directly fostered an egalitarian program directed toward women as women, although his message addressed issues important to women (as to men). Finally, Schussler Fiorenza still attributes the decline of the status of women in early Christianity largely to the encroachment of Greco-Roman social institutions.(71) It is more likely that economic and social changes affecting all of Greco-Roman society contributed to conservative trends in social morality from the first to third centuries, leading to subsequent changes in women's roles in early Christianity. These changes are not specifically Christian.(72) Thus, in spite of the organizing metaphor of "ongoing struggle" that is central to her book,(73) and her stated intent to displace earlier paradigms of Christian uniqueness,(74) the book In Memory of Her still creates the illusion that early Christianity was a special (albeit Jewish) emancipatory movement founded on the liberating message of Jesus, which later fell into institutionalized decay. Although her stated task was to distinguish between Jesus and subsequent Jesus movements behind the gospels,(75) she in fact went on to make claims for the theology of Jesus, locating a challenge to patriarchy, and thus the theological basis for feminism, in Jesus' teaching itself.(76)

Her book, Jesus, Miriam's Child, Sophia's Prophet, develops themes begun in In Memory of Her in its elaboration of her method of feminist critical hermeneutics, a continued critique of anti-Judaism in Christian theology, and a fuller development of the significance of Sophia in the development of feminist Christology. Although Schussler Fiorenza now acknowledges that Jesus' teaching had patriarchal aspects,(77) she still maintains her basic thesis that Jesus, as the prophet of Sophia, sought to abolish the patriarchal family, challenged the oppressive Roman imperial system in his proclamation of the "Kingdom of God," and performed healings of women and welcomed women, the poor and the disenfranchised groups to his inclusive table community.(78)

Schussler Fiorenza has resisted critiques of her work on the basis that she did not intend to reconstruct "the historical Jesus" (or even early Christianity), given the relativity of that task. Scholars who attempt this task merely reconstruct a Jesus "in their own image and likeness," without making clear their own ideological interests.(79) Her recent book, Jesus, Miriam's Child, is particularly critical of recent discussions in historical Jesus studies, which she characterizes as exercises in "historical positivism" that rely on questionable theories of layering in Q and create un-Jewish Jesuses.(80) Because of her suspicion that feminist work is easily co-opted by "malestream" academic theories, in this recent work Schussler Fiorenza maintains a critical distance from mainstream historical biblical criticism on the one hand, and post-modernism on the other.(81) Women who take over historical-critical methodologies common in the academy are both in danger of being co-opted by "malestream" political interests inherent in these methods, as well as in danger of reinscribing the androcentrism of the biblical texts themselves.(82) Elizabeth Castelli has critiqued Schussler Fiorenza's similar sentiments concerning feminist scholars in religion who use "malestream" postmodernist theories.(83) Thus, Schussler Fiorenza discourages the work of both historical-critical feminist scholars on the one hand, and post-modernist feminist scholars on the other, in favor, of a feminist scholarship that must by its nature be defined as theological in order to be considered feminist. In doing this Schussler Fiorenza creates a dichotomy between "good feminists" who follow her method of theological reconstruction, and "bad feminists" (so-called "gender feminists") who do not.(84)This creates what historian Joan Scott has called a false dichotomy between theory and politics.(85)

However, Schussler Fiorenza's criticism of the methods of "malestream" biblical scholars is inconsistent with her own appropriation of these same methods to produce her own reconstructions. For example, one of her major critiques of current "Newest Quest" scholars such as John Dominic Crossan and the Jesus Seminar is that they are dependent on a particular stratigraphy of Q, a stratigraphy that was established by John Kloppenborg's meticulous textual analysis, albeit not without controversy. (86) Yet, large portions of her own reconstruction, especially her reconstruction of the role of women in the transmission of the "words of Sophia" by Q prophets, presupposes the reality of Q as a document and the existence of the "Q community" assumed by Q scholars.(87) Further, she suggests her own layering of the Q document based on a dichotomy of male and female transmitters of tradition, by claiming the exclusivistic language of Jesus' relationship to the "Father" as "Son" found in Q Mt 11:25-27 is a later masculinization of an earlier feminine sophialogy found in Q. Although she fully acknowledges that this masculinization of Wisdom can be traced back to Jewish Wisdom speculation (88) this does not deter her from suggesting that QMt 11:25-27 is a late introduction into Q traditions —without any textual or analytical support. Here Schussler Fiorenza ignores Luise Schottroff's rejection of the usefulness of Wisdom traditions for feminist reconstructions of Jesus traditions, given the Sitz im Leben of Wisdom speculation in the instruction of wealthy young men.(89) The understanding of Wisdom as "Son" in relationship to a "Father" is a component of Wisdom speculation generally, and it should not be viewed as an indication of a separate "layer" of Q traditions merely on the basis of its masculinized nature. Schussler Fiorenza also tries to argue that the "empty tomb" traditions featuring women are as early as the list of witnesses to the resurrection featuring men found in the Pauline creed (1 Cor 15:3-11), by connecting them to the Q matrix of Sophia's prophets.(90) Not only is this unlikely, given that the empty tomb stories have no tradition-historical connection with Q, originating as they do with Mark, or perhaps independently in John, but by making this argument Schussler Fiorenza shows that she accepts the very "commonsense" reasoning of historical priority which she claims to reject.(91)

Finally, Schussler Fiorenza continues to express confusion over the inability of Jewish feminist scholars to accept her reconstruction of Jesus' movement in terms of particularity within an emancipatory Jewish framework.(92) Schussler Fiorenza resists historical-critical challenges by Jewish feminists to the basic tenets of her reconstruction of an egalitarian movement. Within her framework of the ekklesia of women, "we can no longer argue that, for instance, women might not have been members of the communities that produced the Sayings Source Q.(93) However, given that her Jesus remains without peer in Palestine in his teaching of egalitarian reform, the continued concern of certain Jewish feminists that Schussler Fiorenza's reconstruction remains somewhat structurally anti-Judaic, although clearly an advance from the "Jesus the feminist" reconstructions of the 1970s, seems merited, in spite of Schussler Fiorenza's obvious intent to the contrary.(94) Moreover, the very complexity of Jewish' women's lives in both the Diaspora and Palestine, now suggested by the evidence, belies the reconstruction of Jesus as a Sophia-inspired prophet who fostered a new egalitarian movement of social equality.


Evidence indeed suggests that women in ancient Judaism in fact lived lives similar to their Gentile counterparts, and that a monolithic view of Jewish women's experience based on a few sources is now impossible to maintain. Although like all Hellenistic women Jewish women lived in a patriarchal society, it is no longer possible to claim that they were more oppressed than other women of the time. Jewish families were indistinguishable from other Greco-Roman families in so far as their basic relationships are concerned. Cultural values governing relationships between Jewish mothers and daughters, parents and children, masters and slaves are quite in line with those of Greco-Roman society.(95)

Hellenistic Jewish meal customs and ideology are also indistinguishable from those of other Greco-Roman people, and furthermore reflect perceptible cultural changes affecting all of Hellenistic society.(96) Even the communal meals at Qumran reflect the basic patterns of Greco-Roman communal meals.(97) There is evidence that some Jewish women had the right to divorce their husbands as did their Roman counterparts;(98) some were leaders and patronesses of their synagogues;(99) some Jewish women were educated in philosophy;(100) some daughters were instructed in Torah and other biblical texts, perhaps to the point that they could cite scripture;(101) other Jewish women, even in Palestine, knew Greek. (102) Moreover, new research on Hellenistic Jewish literature demonstrates not only its richness and diversity, but also the potential for social progressivism within Hellenistic Judaism. (103) Finally, not only is the declaration of the equality before God of men, women, slaves, Jews and Gentiles (comparable to Gal 3:28) also found in rabbinic contexts, but the tripartite distinction of the Jewish benediction declaring gratitude for not being born a woman, a slave, or a foreigner is also found in Hellenistic contexts. (104) Thus, it is probable that both formulations are proverbial and reflect differing attitudes about women, slaves and foreigners in the Greco-Roman world, rather than positive Christian or negative Jewish ethics respectively.

It is also not the case that women were completely segregated from Jewish religious life. There is no evidence that Jewish women were segregated from men in ancient synagogues. (105) Furthermore, the Women's Court in the Jerusalem temple was an innovation of Herod's restoration,(106) and in light of the temple layout of progressively more restricted courtyards, would only require gender segregation in a single sacred courtyard. In the so-called "Women's Court" women would have mixed freely with men, even priests.(107) That means that before 4 BCE women would have had freer access to the temple precincts and that the exclusion of women from the court of men was a Hellenistic innovation.(108) It seems likely that women participated in the religious life of the temple, and visited Jerusalem for pilgrimage festivals and prayer.(109) Moreover, although rabbinic literature reflects great interest in regulating male contact with menstruants, (110) there is little evidence either way about whether Hellenistic Jewish women adhered to laws of ritual purity surrounding menstruation and childbirth.(111) Further, such regulations were created to protect the purity of the temple, and at the time of Jesus may only have affected women when residing in or visiting Jerusalem. (112) Many of the baths from the Second Temple period identified as "ritual baths" (miq-va'ot) outside of Jerusalem, such as those in Jericho, Sepphoris and Masada, are probably not baths used for ritual purification, but are rather modifications of Roman style cold stepped pools (frigidaria)(113) Thus, an extreme concern for the ritual purity of women among Jews at the time of Jesus throughout Galilee and Judea becomes difficult to maintain. Concern about ritual purity is a common element of other ancient religions besides Judaism, including early Christianity.(114) Purity regulations regarding death and following bodily emissions, particularly before the entrance to holy sanctuaries and in preparation for prayer, were not only common within the context of other ancient religions besides Judaism, but also affected men as well as women. Further, the limitation of women's sexuality in this manner might not have been considered oppressive to ancient women, whose birth control options might have been limited.(115)

The notion that Jewish women were somehow protected from Hellenization is therefore impossible to maintain. It has long been recognized that a distinction between "Hellenism" and "Judaism" can not be made for Hellenistic Judaism generally, even for Palestinian Judaism. The work of Martin Hengel, which canvassed literary, archaeological and inscriptional evidence, has shown that by as early as the mid-third century BCE Hellenism pervaded Palestine to the extent that the daily lives of Jews there would have been indistinguishable from their Diaspora counterparts.(116) Many scholars in historical Jesus studies now recognize the extent to which Hellenistic culture pervaded first century Palestine. This point has become important for certain new reconstructions of the historical Jesus.(117) It is significant that independent scholarly discussions among both historical Jesus scholars and scholars of Jewish women's history have reached similar consensus concerning the Hellenization of Palestine in the first century and the uncritical use of late and diverse rabbinic sources in reconstructing the social situation of first-century Palestine. Archaeological evidence continues to confirm the presence of Hellenistic culture in Palestine, even in Galilee.(118) Although there is far less of a Hellenistic presence in upper Galilee and in rural areas than in lower Galilee and in urban areas, Hellenistic culture is by no means absent.(119) Moreover, given the accessibility of places like Sepphoris by means of major trade routes, it seems unlikely that villages like Nazareth that were in walking distance to such cities would have been somehow cut off from Hellenistic contact. (120) Given the economic interconnected-ness between rural and urban areas in agrarian societies, it is more likely that rural people in Galilee would have traveled back and forth to urban centers to sell their goods and services.(121) This would particularly be the case for rural peasant women, who are most often the members of peasant families to handle bartering, marketing, selling and buying household goods. (122) In spite of rabbinic ideals prohibiting women from the marketplace, incidental stories from even rabbinic sources indicate that women, especially poor women, shopped and sold their own goods and produce in marketplaces and served as shopkeepers with their husbands, or even as innkeepers in their own homes.(123) A denial of the existence of a full-blown market economy in Roman Palestine does not imply the complete isolation of Galilee from Judea or rural areas from urban areas, nor does it require a virtual halt to common marketing habits of peasants, especially peasant women, which are essential to their economic survival.(124) Thus, the notion that Galilee and Palestine were somehow "conservative enclaves" of Judaism unaffected by the cultural changes of the Greco-Roman world now seems impossible, or at the least highly unlikely. (125)

Thus, given the diversity of Jewish women's experience in the Diaspora, it is more reasonable to assume this diversity for Jewish women living in Roman Palestine as well. (126) Although in general it may well be that most Jewish women could not initiate divorce, evidence suggests that some Jewish women in Palestine exercised the right to divorce their husbands. Herod's sister Salome sent her husband Costobarus a bill of divorce, although this may reflect Roman legal practice.(127) In a newly published early second-century document from Palestine, a woman named Shelamzion acknowledges the receipt of several items from her former husband Eleazar, including a divorce bill she had sent to him. (128)

Jewish marriage contracts from Elephantine Egypt dated from the fifth century BCE and the Babatha archives from the Bar Kochba period (135 CE), which suggest similar rights of Jewish women in divorce and marriage, have clear ancient Near Eastern antecedents. (129) Women also appear in supposedly unexpected political, religious and social contexts in Palestine. Josephus records that the Zealot band of Simon bar Gioras included his wife and other women, as well as peasants and runaway slaves. Simon's wife and some of these women were at one point held hostage by a rival faction. (130) Although probably a member of the old ruling class,(131) Simon proclaimed freedom for slaves and the abolition of debt, which Josephus describes as a tactical rather than altruistic move.(132) It is interesting that Josephus nowhere criticizes Simon bar Gioras for the mixed nature of his band of revolutionaries, although the inclusion of women in Simon's entourage may have led other sicarii to view him with some suspicion. (133) Further, Pharisees were known for their influence among aristocratic women;(134) 6000 men, women and children followed an unnamed sign prophet into the temple in 70 CE;(135) a few women may have numbered among John the Baptist's disciples as well.(136)

Moreover, evidence for the participation of Jewish women in communal meals with men also comes from Palestine. Ben Sira mentions the presence of married women at meals with men. (137) Josephus records Imperial decrees securing funds for common meals among Jews that included women and children,(138) and records complaints of Jewish envoys to Rome following the death of Herod the Great concerning the presence of Jewish wives and daughters at Roman style orgies. (139) This is probably an exaggerated description of respectable elite Jewish women attending court banquets. Herod's fortress at Machaerus did contain two dining rooms immediately alongside one another, one for women, one for men. (140) This suggests, however, that men and women dined separately. (141) Although written in Egypt, both the authors of Third Maccabees and the Testament of Job also know of communal meals among Jews that included women and children. (142) The Passover Seder, however, was celebrated in Palestine and was one such communal meal that required the presence of both women and children for the meal. Wives are directed to recline for the meal alongside their husbands for the Seder meal, following progressive Hellenistic and Roman style. (143) Both the Mishnah and the Talmud indicate that the meal is to be taken reclining.(144) Although evidence from the Mishnah and the Talmud may not necessarily clarify first-century practice, there may be good reason to consider it in this instance. G. H. R. Horsley cites the comment of E. Ferguson: It might be thought that this evidence is too late to confirm first-century practice; but the reason given for this posture in the Talmud, namely as a sign of freedom, is such a thoroughly Greek reason that one should conclude that the practice dates from the Hellenistic period.(145) Other cultural influences from the Diaspora affected the private customs of women in Palestine. Even Jewish women in Roman Palestine chose to represent themselves sporting the changing hairstyle fashions of the Imperial court.(146)

New appraisals of the sect at Qumran, although a matter of heated debate, have also strongly questioned the characterization of this sect as an all-male monastic community. (147) In fact, women and children represent over thirty percent of all burials now excavated at the Qumran site. These burials are not on the periphery of the regular graveyards, as has previously been supposed, but are interspersed throughout the major gravesites.(148) Although only a small percentage of the total graves have been excavated, the presence of women and children among those buried at Qumran has long gone ignored and unexplained. Further, the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls mention the presence of women and children in certain assemblies and liturgical celebrations (149) and regulate marriage and sexual intercourse for members in the group, especially by restricting polygamy and incest. (150) The Qumran texts attest to the ability of women to give judicial testimony in corporate assemblies,(151) and contain expansions of stories of biblical heroines of the Hebrew Bible, such as an expanded song of Miriam, the sister of Moses,(152) and a lengthy description of the beauty of Sarah.(153) Certain Qumran scholars suggest that the expansion of the song of Miriam found at Qumran indicates a joint liturgy was practiced by men and women in the Qumran community comparable to that which Philo suggests was practiced by the Therapeutae in Alexandria. (154) Other Qumran scholars have suggested that the clear references to women in the community indicates their full membership in the sect,(155) which would imply the presence of women and children at certain community meals, at least for the Passover Seder. (156) Although it is possible that the references to women in the Scrolls could be theoretical or a mere reflection of Deuteronomic antecedents that presuppose their presence,(157) the mortuary evidence suggests the opposite.

Recent scholarly controversies over the nature of the Qumran community underscore the kind of cultural and social mixture now suggested for Palestine more generally. The communal meal structures of the Qumran community are thoroughly Greco-Roman. (158) The role of women in the group increasingly leads certain Qumran scholars to compare the Qumran community if monastic, with the Therapeutae of Alexandria, Egypt,(159) a Jewish monastic group that practiced communal meals with both men and women, followed by corporate worship and liturgy in after-dinner choirs. (160) However, the Dead Sea Scrolls also demonstrate that this was a community thoroughly immersed in a Jewish apocalyptic heritage and intensely interested in creating a ritually pure community patterned after the Temple priesthood. It is fair to conclude, however, that recent scholarship on women in Hellenistic Judaism and Greco-Roman Palestine confirms the presence of Hellenistic and Roman cultural influences in Palestine as well as the general inapplicability of many rabbinic sources for determining first-century Palestinian practice.

Finally, as many have emphasized, it must not be forgotten that the movement of Jesus was a Jewish movement in Palestine. Both Jesus' teaching and the social configuration of his movement further illustrates the cultural diversity present in the Greco-Roman world and first-century Palestine. This belies simplistic attempts to label Jesus, or Palestine more generally as either "Jewish" or "Hellenistic." It seems plausible that Jesus ate with and traveled with women. However, the more pervasive presence of women in even communal meal contexts throughout Jewish, Roman and Hellenistic society generally serves to undermine the contention that this is a special characteristic of Jesus' movement or an outgrowth of his message of the Kingdom of God. The constituency of Jesus' movement may rather reflect changes in the larger

Hellenistic society, or the social constituency of which he was a part.(161) However, the existence of Greco-Roman meal customs coexisting with an apocalyptic worldview and interest in community purity in the Qumran texts should also caution us against exaggerating the probable Hellenistic aspects of Jesus' teaching. In some recent reconstructions, Jesus no longer seems Jewish, but completely Greek. (162) This too can be a blurring of the evidence. Here the work of G. Vermes, E. P. Sanders and others can provide a needed balance to the discussion.(163) Thus, it seems more plausible that the diversity of Hellenistic Jewish women's experience found in the Diaspora should be assumed for some women in first-century Palestine as well, and that recognizing the fullness of the evidence should not lead to simplistic portraits of either Jesus or women in first-century Palestine on the basis of a false Hellenistic/Jewish dichotomy. Rather, both Jesus and the women in his movement fit well within the context of the diverse Hellenistic Judaism of their day.

1. See especially, Goitein, "Women as Creators," 1- 33; and also J. Dewey, "From Storytelling to Written Text," 71-78; MacDonald, The legend and the Apostle; Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus: Miriam's Child, 131-62.

2. See D'Angelo, "Re-membering Jesus," 199-218, esp. 207; Grant, White Women's Christ, Black Women's Jesus, 184; Moltmann-Wendel, Women Around Jesus, 3: Schaberg, "Feminist Experience," 283-84.

3. Borg, Jesus: A New Vision, 133-35; Meeting Jesus Again, 57-58; Crossan, Historical Jesus. 261-64; Funk. Honest to Jesus, 194, 196, 200; Gnilka, Jesus of Nazareth, 179-80; Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence, 209-45; Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus, 219-23.

4. Funk and Hoover, Five Gospels e. g., 31, 69,

5. Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her. It is not the case that all historical Jesus scholars have ignored Schussler Fiorenza's work as Schaberg suggests, "Feminist (Contribution to) Experience of Historical Jesus Scholarship," 266-85, esp, 267. See in particular the most recent discussion of Schussler Fiorenza's work in Borg, Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship, 23-26 (unavailable to Schaberg). Borg fully incorporates feminist insights into his discussion on 105-7.

6. Corley ''Feminist Myths of Christian Origins/' 49-65.

7. This phrase was first coined by Elizabeth Castelli in our conversation over Burton Mack's Festschrift, Reimagining Christian Origins, which led to. the title of my article in that volume. I am grateful to her for sharing her unpublished work on this topic with me: Elizabeth A. Castelli, ''Rethinking the Feminist Myth of Christian Origins/' (Presentation made at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, February 15, 1994, used by permission). Castelli questions the entire focus on origins in feminist discourse on theology and biblical interpretation.

8. Plaskow was the first to use the term "myth" in reference to early reconstructions of "Jesus the Feminist," See "Blaming Jews for Inventing Patriarchy," 11-12, and more recently, "Anti-Judaism in Christian Feminist Interpretation' 117- 29. See discussions also by Grant, White Women's Christ, Black Women's Jesus, 182-85, and Heschel, "Anti-Judaism in Christian Feminist Theology," 25-28, 95-97.

9. For a complete overview of this discussion among Jewish and Christian feminists, see von Kellenbach, Anti~]udaism in feminist Writings.

10. This view of women in Judaism was .first popularized by Leonard Swidler in the early 1970s, but was also articulated by Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, 359-76; Swidler, "Jesus Was A Feminist," 177-83; Biblical Affirmations of Women; Women in Judaism; Yeshua: A Model for Moderns, 75-110. Other writers following this trend would include (but would by no means be limited to) Stagg and Stagg, Woman in the World of Jesus. Tetlow, Women and Ministry in the New Testament; Moltmann-Wendel.. Liberty, Equality, Sisterhood, 9-21; Kee, "Changing Role of Women," 225-38; Wink, Engaging the Powers, 109-37; Witherington, Women in the Ministry of Jesus. All major Christian Bible Encyclopedias (which span the past 3 decades) contain this reconstruction of the place of women in Judaism: Scroggs, "Woman in the New Testament," 966-68; Edwards, "Woman." 1089-97; Witherington, "Women (NT)", 957-61. The one exception is Scholer, "Women." 880-67. Apart from Scholer, all the works mentioned in this note follow the basic reconstruction of Jesus and his Jewish context that follows. Archer also reflects this basic understanding of Judaism in Her Price is Beyond Rubies.

11. Berakot 7.18; y. Berakot 9.2; 13b; Menahot 43b.

12. "Leonard Swidler's Response to A.-J. Levine's Review," 717-19. See also Osiek, What Are They Saying About The Social Setting of the New Testament? 15-20.

13. Swidlcr, "Jesus Was a Feminist" and in

14. Kee, "Changing Role of Women," 237, 230 (on the subsequent declaration that "in Christ there is neither male nor female"); Moltmann-Wendel, Liberty, 30, 32.

15. Kee, "Changing Role of Women," (on the subsequent declaration that "in Christ there is neither male nor female"), 230; Moltmann-Wendel, Liberty, 19; Swidlcr, Yeshua. 95; Tetlow, Women and Ministry. 46, 93; Wink, Engaging the Powers, 131.Witherington, "Women," 959; Women in the Ministry of Jesus, 52.

16. Tetlow, Women and Ministry, 46; Wink, Engaging the Powers, 129.

17. Witherington, Women in the Ministry of Jesus, 52.

18. Jeremias. Jerusalem, 376; Wink, Engaging the Powers, 131.

19. Moltmann-Wendel, Liberty, 14; Witherington, "Women," 958-9; Women in the Ministry of Jesus, 50-52, 129

20. Edwards, "Woman," 1095, 1097; Moltmann-Wendel, LOvrfy, 37. 20. Kee, "Changing Roles of Women," 237; Scroggs, "Woman," 968; Moltmann-WendeL

22. Edwards, "Woman," 1097; Scroggs. "Woman," 968; Moltmann-WendeL, Liberty, 34.

23. Kee, "Changing Roles of Women," 237: Moltmann-Wendel. Liberty. 34-36; Stagg and Stagg,

Women in the World of Jesus, 258, Witherington, "Women," 960.

24. Moltmann-Wendel, Liberty, 35.

25. Kee, "Changing Roles of Women," 237.

26. Wink, Engaging the Powers, 133.

27. Stagg and Stagg, Woman in the World of Jesus, 255-58.

28. Edwards, "Woman," 1097; Tetlow, Women and Ministry, 78-79.

29. J. Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine, esp. 9-14.

30. J. Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine, 34.

31. ]. Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine, 38-39. See also Mack, Myth of Innocence, 4.

32. J. Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine, 38-39.

33. Greeley, "Domestic Violence. "

34. J. Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine, 83.

35. Von Kellenbach, Anti-Judaism, 57-74.

36. J. Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine, 79.

37. J. Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine, 81.

38. Richard Horsley now argues that Galilee should be considered culturally and religiously distinct from Judea, with no particular allegiance to the Temple or Temple cult. See Galilee, esp. 128-57. This sets the stage for a Jesus who is "Galilean" not "Jewish?" or "Judean." This is actually an old distinction. See brief mention of the work of Walter Bauer and Walter Grundmann in Freyne, Galilee, 2.

39. Hence Jacob Neusner's use of the term "Judaisms." See most recently Chilton and Neusner, Judaism in the New Testament, esp. 1—41. See also Porton, "Diversity in Postbiblical Judaism," 57-80.

40. Charlesworth, "Greek, Persian, Roman, Syrian, and Egyptian Influences," 219-43; Flusser, "Paganism in Palestine," 1065-100; Mark Smith, Early History of God; Morton Smith, "Palestinian Judaism in the First Century," 67-81.

41. Feldman, "How Much Hellenism in Jewish Palestine?" 101-2; Hoenig, "Oil and Pagan Defilement," 63-75.

42. Hachlili, Ancieiit Jewish Art and Archaeology, 285-87; Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, vol. 1, 79-84.

43. Reed, "Population Numbers, Urbanization, and Economics," 203-19.

44. R. Horsley, "Historical Jesus and Archaeology," 91-135.

45. Fitzmyer, "Did Jesus Speak Greek?" 58-63, 76-77; Funk, Parables and Presence, 19-28; Gundry, "Language of First Century Palestine," 404—8; Mussies, "Greek in Palestine and the Diaspora," 1040-64; Porter, "Jesus and the Use of Greek," 123-54; Silva, "Bilingualism and the Character of Palestinian Greek," 205-26; van der Horst, "Jewish Funerary Inscriptions," 46-57. See also comments by Freyne, Galilee, 167-75; "Urban-Rural Relations in First-Century Galilee," 75-91; and D. Edwards, "Socio-Economic and Cultural Ethos," 53-73. Gundry, "The Language of First Century Palestine," and now Meier, Marginal Jew vol.1, 260-68, suggests Jesus was trilingual, speaking Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew.

46. Boyarin, Carnal Israel; Daube, "Rabbinic Methods," 239-64; Treu, "Bedeutung des Griechischen," 132-34; Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine.

47. See von Kellenbach's review of research done by Bernadette Brooten, Ross Kraemer, and others (Anti-Judaism, 57-74); A.-J. Levine, "Review: L. Swidler, Yeshua: A Model For Moderns/' 535-36; "Response by Levine/' 720-21; "Introduction/' in "Women Like This;" "Second Temple Judaism," 8-33.

48. Thistlethwaite, Sex, Race, and God, 94-97.

49. Many books on women and Jesus or the New Testament follow the basic reconstruction I have outlined above. See Faxon, Women and Jesus; Jewett, Man as Male and Female; MacHaffie, Her Story; Nunnally-Cox, Foremothers; Torjesen Malcolm, Women at the Crossroads; Massey, Woman and the New Testament; Mollenkott, Women, Men and the Bible ; Scanzoni and Hardesty, All We're Meant to Be; Sergio, Jesus and Woman; Stephens, A New Testament View of Women.

50. For recent treatments see Kam, Tlieir Stories, Our Stories, 181, 187-93, 212, Jacobs-Malina, Beyond Patriarchy, 11, 19, 27-28, 70; G. Osborne, "Women in Jesus' Ministry," 259-91; Ricci, Mary Magdalene and Many Others, 23; W. Robins, "Woman's Place," 85-88 and comments by Gnilka, Jesus of Nazareth, 179-80; Schnackenburg, Jesus in the Gospels, 198-209.

51. Alexandre, "Early Christian Women/' 410, 419-21; Anderson and Zinsser, A History of Their Own, 67-70.

52. Alexandre, "Early Christian Women/' 419-21.

53. Anderson and Zinsser, History of Their Own, 67-68.

54. Pantel, A History of Women, 337.

55. A.-J. Levine has questioned the egalitarian nature of the teachings of Jesus in Q and the egalitarian nature of the Q community. See "Who's Catering the Q Affair?" 145-62 and "Second Temple Judaism, Jesus and Women," 8-33. Sanders doubts that Jesus traveled with women (Historical Figure, 109-10). See also comments by Grant, White Women's Christ, Black Women's Jesus, 184. Most Christian feminist and womanist scholars assume the egalitarian nature of Jesus' movement. See D'Angelo, "Re-membering Jesus," 199-218, esp. 207; Grant, White Women's Christ, Black Women's Jesus, 184; Moltmann-Wendel, Women Around Jesus, 3; Schaberg, "Feminist Experience," 283-84.

56. Womanist scholars also ground their theology "in history with Jesus' ministry as that is recorded in the gospels" (K. Douglas, Black Christ, 113). Douglas still juxtaposes Jesus with Judaism (Black Christ, 91). See also Grant, White Women's Christ, Black Women's Jesus, 185, 212-14. Womanist scholars, however, are less interested in "Jesus the feminist'' and more interested in expanding the focus of the discussion so that Jesus' critique of oppression is not theologically limited to the concerns of white women, who are primarily concerned about patriarchalism and sex discrimination. See Douglas, Black Christ, 95, 97-117; and Grant, White Women's Christ, Black Women's Jesus, 195-222, esp. 215-20.

57. This is in spite of the fact that both Alexandre, "Early Christian Women," and Anderson and Zinsser, History of Their Own, presuppose the work of at least Schussler Fiorenza and Rosemary Radford Ruether (Anderson and Zinsser) as well as that of Ross Kraemer, Bernadette Brooten and others (Alexandre).

58. See for example, Borg, Jesus: A New Vision, 133-35; idem, Meeting Jesus Again, 57-8; Moltmann-Wendel, Women Around Jesusr 2-9; Mott, "Jesus as Social Critic," 37; Newsom and Ringe, Women's Bible Commentary; Schussler Fiorenza, Searching the Scriptures, vol. 2; Osbome, "Women in Jesus' Ministry"; Schottroff, Let the Oppressed Go Free, 73-74; 142-7; Lydia's Impatient Sisters, 11-16.

59. Carr, Transforming Grace, 158-79; Grant, White Women's Christ, Black Women's Jesus, 182-185, 215-22; E. A. Johnson, Consider Jesus, 49-65, 97-113; Schussler Fiorenza, Miriam's Child, 67-96; Thistlethwaite, Sex, Race, and God, 94-97.

60. For scholars debating the import of rabbinic literature for understanding first century women's lives, see Ilan, Jewish Women, 27, 32-36; Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings, 93-105; Satlow, "Reconsidering the Rabbinic ketubah Payment," 133-51; and Wegner, "Philo's Portrayal of Women." On the limits of rabbinic literature for the historical reconstruction of first-century Jewish sects, see Ilan, Jewish Women in Greco-Roman Palestine, 34; Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees; Stemberger, Jewish Contemporaries of Jesus. For a general critique of the uncritical use of rabbinic literature by Christian scholars in the interpretation of the New Testament and the reconstruction of first-century Judaism, see Neusner, Rabbinic Literature and the New Testament. ' - '

61. The positive remarks about women and the history behind differences of opinion on the role of women in rabbinic texts are often ignored. See Boyarin, Carnal Israel, 167-96; Bronner, From Eve to Esther; Ilan, Jewish Women, 32-36, 226-29; Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings, 93-105; Wegner, "Philo's Portrayal of Women," 43; Chattel or Person.

62. Originally noted by Kraemer, "Review: In Memory of Her," 1-9. See now also Ilan, Jewish Women, 12.

63. So Castelli, "Rethinking the Feminist Myth of Christian Origins," 5.

64. Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, ch. 4. See also remarks in "Introduction to the 10th Anniversary Edition," In Memory of Her, xxxiii.

65. Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, 107.

66. Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, 115.

67. See A.-J. Levine, "Sacrifice and Salvation," 17-30. .

68. Against Schussler Fiorenza's comments in In Memory of Her, "Introduction to the 10th Anniversary Edition," xxxiv.

69. Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, 120-21.

70. Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, chs. 5, 6.

71. Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, chs. 7, 8. This remains the case for Rosemary Radford Ruether's reconstruction as well (see Sexism and God-Talk, 33-37). For the use of "rabbinic" influences as a foil, see Wegner, "Philo's Portrayal of Women," 43-44.

72. See A. Cameron, "Redrawing the Map," 266—71; Corley, Private Women, Public Meals, 58-59, 77; "Feminist Myths of Christian Origins," 59. The institutionalization of the church is not the only explanation for these cultural shifts as Alexandre also assumes ("Early Christian Women," 423-24).

73. Schussler Fiorenza, "Introduction to the 10th Anniversary Edition," In Memory of Her, xxxi.

74. Schussler Fiorenza, "Introduction to the 10th Anniversary Edition," In Memory of Her, xxxiv.

75. Schussler Fiorenza, "Introduction to the 10th Anniversary Edition," In Memory of Her, xxiv.

76. Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, ch. 4; See critique by Ilan, Jewish Women, 12, 26; See also comments by Ross Kraemer in an interview with Murphy, "Women and the Bible," 58.

77. Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Child, 82.

78. Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Child, 74, 92—94.

79. Schussler Fiorenza, "Introduction to the 10th Anniversary Edition," In Memory of Her, xxv; Jesus, Miriam's Child, 88.

80. Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Child, 85-88. See also "Introduction to the 10th Anniversary Edition," In Memory of Her, xiii-xlii; Jesus, Miriam's Child, 82-88; "Text and Reality," 19-34; But She Said, 80-101.

81. Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Child, ch. 1.

82. Schussler Fiorenza, But She Said, 31-33; 40-41; Jesus, Miriam's Child, 5.

83. Schussler Fiorenza, But She Said, 80-88; Jesus, Miriam's Child, 7, 13. See Elizabeth Castelli, "Review: But She Said," 296-300. See also, The Bible and Culture Collective, Postmodern Bible, 260-67.

84. Bible and Cultural Collective, Postmodern Bible, 263. See also Castelli, "Review" 298-300.

85. J. W. Scott, "Women's History," 42-66, esp. 55-61. See also Postmodern Bible, 264-65.

86. Kloppenborg, Tlie Formation of Q.

87. Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Child, ch. 5.

88. Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Child, 143-44.

89. Schottroff, "The Sayings Source Q," 529-30.

90. Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Child, 140.

91. Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Child, 124-27.

92. Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Child, 72.

93. Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Child, 29. This is in reference to A.-J. Levine's work on Q, and in fact misrepresents Levine's views, in that Levine clearly states that women were members of the Q community ("Who's Catering the Q Affair?" 156).

94. Kraemer, "Review: In Memory of Her," 1-9.

95. See articles in Cohen, Jewish Family in Antiquity, Ilan, Jewish Women, 205-11.

96. Corley, Private Women, 'Public Meals, 66-75.

97. Corley, Private Women, Public Meals, 68; Klosinski, "Meals in Mark," 92-93; D. E. Smith, "Social Obligation/' 178-79.

98. Brooten, "Konnten Frauen," 66-80. See discussion in von Kellenbach, Anti-Judaism, 61-62.

99. Brooten, Women Leaders. See also H. Safrai, "Women and the Ancient Synagogue/' 41-42.

100. Kraemer, "Monastic Jewish Women," 342-70.

101. flan, Jewish Women, 190-204. There was a debate among rabbinic teachers concerning the appropriateness of teaching daughters Torah. See also Brooten, "Jewish Women's History," 26; Kraemer, "Monastic Jewish Women," 367ff; Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine, 23-24. Ilan notes, however, that even animals and inanimate objects quote scripture in re rabbinic sources (Jewish Women, 197). She suggests that Genesis would be the most likely book for women to have studied (Jewish Women, 204).

102. Ilan, Jewish Women, 192, esp. n. 28; Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine, 23-24.

103. See in particular the articles in A.-J. Levine, "Women Like This," and Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings, 106-27.

104. Berakot 7.18; y. Berakot 9.2,13b; b. Menahot 43b. This is variously attributed to Thales, Socrates and Plato. See Diogenes Laertius 1.33. Witherington, "Rite and Rights for Women," 593-94, and Tetlow, Women and Ministry, 12.

105. Brooten, Women Leaders; Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings, 126; H. Safrai, "Women and the Synagogue," 41, 45.

106. Grossman, "Women and the Jerusalem Temple," 19; Jewett, Man as Male and Female,

107. Grossman, "Women and the Jerusalem Temple," 22-27; Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings, 95.

108. Grossman, "Women and the Jerusalem Temple," 19; Jewett, Man as Male and Female, 90.

109. Grossman, "Women and the Jerusalem Temple," 20-27; Ilan, Jewish Women, 179-81; 184. See also S. Safrai, "Pilgrimage to Jerusalem," 12-21.

110. Ilan, Jewish Women, 100-5.

111. Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings, 102-4.

112. As long as the ritually impure stayed away from the temple precincts, most Jewish people were not concerned about their impurity. See Cohen, "Menstruants and the Sacred " 278-79.

113. Wright, "Jewish Ritual Baths," 190-14. The debate over the identification of these so-called "ritual baths" is a heated one. See also Reich, "Great Mikveh Debate," 52-53; "Hot Bath-House," 102-7; "More on Miqva'ot," 59-60. For an opposing view see La Sor "Discovering What Jewish Miqva'ot Can Tell," 52-59, as well as Small, "Late Hellenistic Baths/' 59-74.

114. Cohen, "Menstruants and the Sacred"; M. Douglas, Purity and Danger. See also Fredriksen, "Did Jesus Oppose the Purity Laws?" 19-25, 42-47.

115. Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings, 103-4. But see flan's comments on the availability and allowance of birth control and even sterilization among Jews (Jewish Women, 67,108, 113-14, 120). Women in antiquity did know of ways to end their pregnancies. See Riddle, "Ever Since Eve," 29-35.

116. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism. See also Brooten, "Early Christian Women," 70-71; Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, 100, 109-18; Osiek, What Are They Saying, 16-20, J. Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine, 81.

117. Crossan, Historical Jesus, 17-19; Mack, Myth of Innocence, 65-66; Lost Gospel, 51-68.

118. Porter, "Jesus and the Use of Greek."

119. Osiek, What Are They Saying, 18-20; Peskowitz, "family/ies in Antiquity," 15-16.

120. Crossan, Historical Jesus, 18.

121. See Lenski, Power and Privilege, passim.

122. Corley, "Jesus' Table Practice," 453.

123. Innkeeping implies travel. See Ilan, Jewish Women, 128-31, 186-88. Since material remains from Roman Ostia and Pompeii are often used in comparison with Palestinian evidence, it is notable that artistic depictions from Roman Ostia show women chatting at marketplaces, selling poultry, rabbits and other produce as well as selling drinks in a tavern. One woman is depicted as a traveling merchant. In scenes from Pompeii, women and men sell pots, food, and clothing in the open air market. On Roman Ostia, see Kampen, Image and Status, 31, 52-86. On Pompeii see Kampen, Image and Status, 101, 104; D'Avino, The Women of Pompeii, 15-21.

124. Against R. Horsley, "Historical Jesus and Archaeology," 91-135.

125. For further on the cultural connections between Galilee and Judea to the south, see Meyers, "The Cultural Setting of Galilee," 693.

126. Brooten, "Early Christian Women," 70; Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, 100, 109-110.

127. Josephus, Antiquities 15.260. See J. Collins, "Marriage, Divorce and Family," 104-62, esp. 120; Ilan, Jewish Women, 146.

128. Nahal Se' elim 13. See Collins, "Marriage, Divorce and Family," 120-21. Debate over the reading of this document has continued. It is described as either a receipt for a divorce bill or a divorce bill. The first scholar to argue that the document referred to a get sent by a woman was Milik, "Le travail d'editions," esp. 21. For recent discussions reflecting Milik's original view, see Ilan, "Notes and Observations," 95-202, Jewish Women, 146-47; as well as Brooten, "Konnten Frauen," 71-72. For the view that the document refers to a divorce bill sent by a man, see Yardeni, Nahal Se'elim Documents; Yardeni and Greenfield, "A Receipt for a Ketubba, 197-208 (English Summary, 147-48).

129. Brooten, ''Konnten Frauen," 68-70; Collins, "Marriage, Divorce and Family," 119-20; Lipinski, "Wife's Right to Divorce," 26. Both Brooten and Lipinski consider the Babatha contract to reflect the same Semitic legal tradition as the Aramaic contracts from Elephantine. See also "Satlow, "Reconsidering the Rabbinic ketubah Payment," 137-41; Kraemer, "Jewish Mothers and Daughters," 99-101; and Isaac, "The Babatha Archive," 71-73; Yadin, "Babatha's Ketubah," 75-99.

130. Josephus, Jewish War 4:9.3-8 (503-44), esp. 505. I am grateful to the late Winsome Munro for these references from her unpublished manuscript, "The Honor of 'Shameless' Biblical Women," 24.

131. Goodman, Ruling Class, 206.

132. Josephus, Jewish War, 4.508. See Goodman, Ruling Class, 204, 207.

133. Goodman, Ruling Class, 205. Goodman considers the presence of the women in Gioras' group to be a sign of its "unbrigand-like" character. However, Josephus' lack of comment on the matter makes this less likely. Simon bar Gioras' group may be indicative of a larger presence of women among Zealots and brigands than Goodman allows.

134. Josephus Antiquities 13.15.5-16.12 (401-15); 17.2.4 (41-45). See Stemberger, Jewish Contemporaries of Jesus, 9, 12, 14, 19, 116. See also P. Oxy 840, which contains a "woe" of Jesus against the Pharisees for consorting with "prostitutes" (Ttopvai) and "flute-girls" (avXrjrpibf^). This is certainly the language of caricature and insult, but it does serve to connect the Pharisees with women.

135. Josephus, Jewish War 6.5.2 (283).136.

136. Matt 21:32. See Corley, Private Women, Public Meals, 154-58; Jeremias, Jerusalem, 376. The Gospel of the Nazoreans records that Jesus' mother was among these women (Jerome, Against Pelagius 3, 2).

137. Sir 9:9; Corley, Private Women, Public Meals, 69-70.

138. Josephus, Jewish War 14.10.3-8 (196-215); 14.10.24 (260). See Theissen,

139. Josephus, Antiquities 17.11.2 (304-9); Antiquities 1.25.6 (511). "Geography, Politics and Economics," 102-3.

140. For Herod's fortress, see Schwank, "Neue Funde," 429-35, esp. 434. · 141. Corley, Private Women, Public Meals, 69.

142. 3 Macc 5:48-50; 6:30-32; T Job 10:1-7. See Theissen, "Review," 633.

143. Corley, Private Women, Public Meals, 69-70.

144. Pesahim 10; b. Pesahim 108a. See Bahr, "Seder of Passover," 181; G. H. R. Horsley, "Reclining at the Passover Meal," 75; Stein, "The Influence of Symposia Literature," 13-44; D. Smith, "Social Obligation," 178.

145. G. H. R. Horsley, "Reclining," 75.

146. In Roman style funerary busts with inscriptions found in Palestine from around the first Jewish War to the third century CE 74 of 178 busts catalogued represent women. Although most come from urban centers like Skythopolis, Gadara and Beth Shean and were no doubt costly, names with Semitic roots do occur in certain bust inscriptions, including women's. See Skupinska-Lovset, Funerary Portraiture, 118-19, on Semitic women's names.

147. Archer, for example, does not even mention Qumran in her book on Jewish women in Roman Palestine (Her Price is Beyond Rubies). Ilan describes the role of women in the Qumran sect as "limited" (Jewish Women, 216).

148. Elder, "The Woman Question," 220-34, esp. 223-24.

149. IQSa 1.4-11 (Rule of the Congregation) and 4Q502. See Baumgarten, "4Q502, Marriage or Golden Age Ritual?" 125-35; "The Qumran-Essene Restraints on Marriage," 13-14; Elder, "The Woman Question," 225-32; Ilan, Jewish Women, 41; Qimron, "Celibacy in the Dead Sea Scrolls," 289; Schuller, "Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls/' 123-24 on IQSa. The Damascus Document also contains references to women in the community. See Schuller, "Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls," 118-23.

150. Baumgarten, "Qumran-Essene Restraints on Marriage;" Elder, "Woman Question," 228-29; Qimron, "Celibacy in the Dead Sea Scrolls"; Schiffman, "Laws Pertaining to Women in the Temple Scroll," 210-28; Schuller, "Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls," 118-22; Vermes, "Sectarian Matrimonial Halakhah in the Damascus Rule," 50-56.

151. IQSa 1.4—11. The dear reference to women's obligation to give witness in judicial hearings in the community has so confounded many interpreters that IQSa 1.11 is often emended to refer to a man (yqbl) "he will be accepted/received" in spite of clear feminine (tqbl ) "she will be accepted/received" in the text itself. Baumgarten began this trend of emendation in "On the Testimony of Women in IQSa," 266-69. However, many Qumran scholars now argue against the need for emendation in this instance. For an early acknowledgement of the dear reference to women's testimony in IQSa I.ll, see Richardson, "Some Notes on IQSa," 119, as well as Elder, "The Woman Question," 228; Ilan, Jewish Women, 41, 163-66; E. Schuller, "Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls," 123-24.

152. 4Q365 6 ii (known as the Revised Pentateuch). See Brooke, "Power to the Powerless," 62-65; E. Schuller, "Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls," 125.

153. Genesis Apocryphon 20:2-8a. See E. Schuller, "Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls," 125.

154. Philo, Contemplative Life, 80; So Brooke, "Power to the Powerless." See also Kraemer, "Monastic Jewish Women," 347ff.

155. So Schuller, "Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls."

156. This is a matter of greater dispute, but see Crown and Cansdale, "Qumran: Was it an Essene Settlement?" 31, 76, nn. 16 and 19; Meeks, "Images of the Androgyne," 177-78, n. 70.

157. So Ross Kraemer in private correspondence dated June 2,1996.

158 Corley, Private Women, Public Meals, 68; Klosinski, "Meals in Mark," 92-93; D. Smith, "Social Obligation," 178-79.

159. Brooke, "Power to the Powerless;" Elder, "The Woman Question."

160. Corley, Private Women, Public Meals, 70-71; Kraemer, "Monastic Jewish Women."

161. See Corley, Private Women, Public Meals, 185-86. Averil Carneron was the first to suggest that the mixed nature of early Christian groups may have had more to do with the society and class of its constituency than with any particular aspect of its theology. See Cameron, "Neither Male Nor Female," 60-68; "Redrawing the Map," 266-71. For further on the lack of slave/free distinctions among the lower classes, see Kampen, Image and Status, 31.

162. Several recent reconstructions of Jesus have been criticized in this manner, including those of Mack, Crossan, and the corporate views of the Jesus Seminar. See Chilton, "Jesus Within Judaism," 262-84. For his critique of Crossan, see "Jesus Within Judaism," 278-80. Levine has also criticised Crossan in this regard ("Yeast of Eden").

163. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism; Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah; Vermes, Jesus the Jew. See also Charlesworth, Jesus' Jewishness; Chilton, "Jesus Within Judaism"; Pure Kingdom; Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ; Hagner, Jewish Reclamation of Jesus; Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian.


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