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Women and the Third Evangelist

Women and the Third Evangelist

Women in the Earliest Churches by Ben Witherington III, Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 128-157.
Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 59.
Republished on our website with the necessary permissions

A. Women in the ministry of Jesus

Of all the insights stressed by Lukan scholars in the past several decades, perhaps none has been more emphasized than the paradigmatic nature of the Nazareth speech of Jesus (Luke 4.16-30). Our purpose is not to answer the difficult historical questions raised by such texts as Luke 4.16-30, but to ask how the Evangelists as editors in the last third of the first century presented women first mentioned in their sources. Luke (4.16-30) indicates that the liberation of the oppressed and poor is an essential part of any ministry modeled on that of Jesus. For our purposes, we should note that Luke will stress again and again that women are among the oppressed that Jesus came to liberate. This is already evident at 4.26 where Elijah’s action for a widow is cited as an example, but Luke does not content himself with citing examples.

Luke structures some of his Gospel material to illustrate the fulfilment of Isa 61.1-2 in the ministry of Jesus. Table 1 illustrates this idea.

Table 1

Luke 4.18-19 (Isa 61.1-2) Luke 4.38-44 Luke 8.1-3
18 - preach Good News to poor   I preach and proclaim Good News
recovery of sight 38 - Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law 2 - heals evil spirits and illnesses in women
  40 - Jesus heals sick with various diseases  
set at liberty the oppressed 41 - demons cast out 2-3 examples of captives released, i.e., women
19 - proclaim ‘acceptable year of the Lord’ 43 preach Good News to other cities (cf. v. 44) cf. 8.4-15

Another structural element in Luke-Acts, even more noticeable than the one just mentioned, is Luke’s penchant for male-female parallelism. This is evident not only in Luke’s noted pairing of parables, but also in special Lukan material, as table 2 indicates.(1)

Table 2

Zacharias and Mary:  
- the angelic annunciation Luke 1.10-20, 26-38
- glory to God Luke 1.46-55, 67 - 79
Simeon and Hannah Luke 2.25-38
widow of Sarepta and Naaman Luke 4.25-38
healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and demoniac Luke 4.31, cf. Mark 1.21-31
centurion of Capernaum and widow of Nain Luke 7.1-17
Simon the Pharisee and the sinner woman Luke 7.36-50
man with the mustard seed and woman with the leaven Luke 13.18-21
good Samaritan, and Mary/Martha Luke 10,29-42
man with one hundred sheep and woman with ten pieces of silver Luke 15.4-10
importunate widow and the publican Luke 18.1-14
women at the tomb and Emmaus disciples Luke 23.55-24.35
sleeping man and woman at the mill in Last Judgment Luke 17.34-35, cf. Matt 24.40-41
Ananias and Sapphira Acts 5.1-11
Aeneas and Tabitha Acts 9.32 - 42
Lydia and the Philippian jailer Acts 16.13-34
Dionysius and Damaris Acts 27.34

As H. Flender rightly concludes, ‘Luke expresses by this arrangement that man and woman stand together and side by side before God. They are equal in honor and grace; they are endowed with the same gifts and have the same responsibilities 92)

A good deal can be learned about Luke’s interests from the way he edits his Markan and Q source material, for here we are able to compare the source material and its redaction. For instance, at Luke 18.29 (Mark 10.28-30) Luke adds ? γυνατ(check)κα, thus intensifying the cost of discipleship. This also reflects Luke’s interest in and concern for women. This concern for a woman’s condition is also evident in what he adds to the Markan story of the widow and her two coins (Luke 21. 1-4 = Mark 12.41-44). Only Luke says she was πενιχράν. Further, Luke is sparing in his retention of ‘truly’ to introduce a saying of Jesus (only as 9.27, 12.41), but here he does so to stress this woman’s good example.(3) More than any other Evangelist, Luke stresses Jesus’ concern for widows, a particularly disadvantaged group of women (cf. Luke 2.36-38, 4.26, 7.11 - 17, 18.1 -8, 20.47, 21.1 -4).

Luke 11.27-28, unique to the Lukan account, implies that a person’s chief blessedness is in one’s response to God’s word. This implies a criticism of any attempt to see a woman’s chief blessedness in her traditional gender-specific roles. Luke 10.38-42, also unique, implies a similar criticism of any attempt to suggest a woman’s traditional roles were more important than hearing and heeding the word of Jesus. The ‘one thing needful’ for women as well as men is a response to the Word, the ‘best portion’ of which they should not be prevented from partaking.(4)

Omissions from the Marcan source also give us clues to Luke’s interest, as is shown in the way he handles the difficult material in Mark 3.21, 31 -35 (Luke 8.19 -21). Luke not only deletes Mark 3.21 (which implies a serious misunderstanding by Mary of Jesus), but also softens the contrast between Jesus’ physical family and the family of faith. Another interesting example arises in the Q material at Luke 11.31 (Matt 12.42). Here Luke has των ’ανδρων which may be an attempt to feature prominent women at the expense of certain men.(5) This may reflect Luke’s tendency to stress male-female reversal, the praise of a woman (even a foreign woman) at the expense of certain men who ought to be setting good examples. This same motif is evident at Luke 7.36-50 and 13.10-17, both uniquely Lukan. Examples of this sort could be multiplied but have been covered in detail in my earlier monograph.(6) All of this demonstrates a redactional tendency by the Third Evangelist reflecting his interest in women and their roles.

B. Women in the resurrection narratives

Though there is no great stress on women or their roles in the Lukan resurrection narrative, much of which is unique, there does appear to be a notable structural example of male-female reversal and a stress on the validity of a woman’s word of witness about the resurrection events. When the women visit the tomb on Easter morning, Luke highlights the angel’s words to the women to remember what Jesus said to them while He was in Galilee (24.5-7). By this means, Luke implies the women were with Jesus in Galilee and were taught these prophecies, for they were among His disciples.(7) Theμνήσθητε of v.6 and the’εμν’ησθησαν of v.8 perhaps are to be taken in the technical sense of calling to mind the word of Jesus and realizing the implications of their present fulfilment (cf. Acts 11.15; John 2.22, 12.16).(8) In this ‘call to remember’, the women are being summoned to be true disciples. There is no future element in the angel’s words or any commissioning of the women to go tell the disciples (though Luke says they do so).(9) Thus, the women are treated not as emissaries to the disciples, but as true disciples in their own right, worthy of receiving special revelation about Jesus.

Luke adds an account of how the women’s words were received. They abandon the tomb and announce all these things Ταυτα πάντα to the Eleven and all the restΤοις ‘ένδεκα και πασιν τοις λοιποις.(10) Only now, after recording the full scope of the women’s roles in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, does Luke give the reader a list of those involved in these events. This placing of a list after certain crucial events is similar to Luke’s procedure in Acts 1.13 -14.(11) The placement of presumably known names at a climactic point may be Luke’s way of validating what he previously recorded. The Evangelist may be claiming that these specific people are witnesses and guarantors of these events. If so, then again we see Luke emphasizing the equality of women and their worth as valid witnesses to all three events. Perhaps Luke’s mention of Joanna (instead of Mark’s Salome) is an attempt to present a well-to-do witness, one who could relate to a similar audience.

Placing the list after the death-burial-empty-tomb sequence is appropriate because at this point the women are no longer the sole witnesses to what transpired, and Luke goes on to stress that the Eleven are the primary recipients of the most crucial appearance of Jesus. In Luke, the Apostles are designated witnesses and guarantors of the fact that the risen Jesus appeared (cf. 24.36-49; Acts 1.21-22).(12) Luke stresses that the women’s witness is crucial for what takes place up to that point; in fact, even the Apostles can only validate their words (v. 12) and others among the disciples can only talk about them (vv. 22-24). Consider also the contrast between Luke 24.9 and 10. In the latter verse, it is the named women Και α‘ι λοιπαι συν α’υταιςwho have to bear witness to the Apostles. In the former verse we are told that it is the Eleven Και πασιν τοις λοιποις who receive this report. Thus, we note another example of role reversal certain leading women and others with them instruct or announce the Good News to the men and even to the Apostles whose future it would soon be to make such proclamations.(13) Grammatically, v. 10 is difficult, and it must be admitted that Luke leaves the impression that the other women were the primary ones who spoke to the Apostles about these things(14) Perhaps the difficulties have been created by Luke’s insertion of a mainly traditional list of female witnesses (v. 10a).(15)

Luke appears to make a deliberate contrast between the women witnesses and the men who receive the witness. He says that their words seemed to be nonsense to the Apostles who refused to believe their report (

('ηπίστουν α’υταις).(16) This reaction is typical of the common Jewish male prejudice against a woman’s testimony;(17) however, Peter is portrayed as taking the women seriously enough to go and inspect the tomb.

Many scholars consider Luke 24.12 an insertion based on John 20.3-10. 18 Textually, however, there is no more reason to omit this verse than του κυρίου ’Іησου ; in v. 3, or ο’υκ ’εστιν ωδε’αλλα’ηγέρθη in v. 6, and there are good contextual reasons for including it.(19) For instance, Luke 24.24 seems to presuppose 24.12 and there is no textual question as to the originality of v. 24. Further, the style of v. 12 is Lukan.(20) It has been suggested that v. 12 is Luke’s apology to his female readers for the Apostles’ refusal to believe the women’s witness about the empty tomb.(21) The content of v. 12 does not duplicate the story of the women’s visit. No angels appear to Peter, nor is there any divine message given to him - these are the two primary features of the women’s visit. The fact that Peter does not enter the tomb but sees the strips of linen lying by themselves also distinguishes this account from the narrative of the women’s visit.(22) Only the fact of the visit and Peter’s wondering (θαυμάξων, contrast ’απορεισθαι,) v.4 is reminiscent of the women’s visit. The parallels perhaps are Luke’s way of informing us that the initial reaction of both women and men to an uninterpreted empty tomb is not faith but doubt and uncertainty.

Unlike the First and Fourth Evangelists, Luke does not recount a resurrection appearance to one or more of the women.(23) However, in Luke’s main appearance story, the encounter on Emmaus road, there is evidence of male-female contrast even though the story does not feature women. In the midst of the carefully constructed dialogue (24.17-27), we note the following points of comparison and contrast.(24)

(1) και γυναικές τινες’εξ ‘ημων (v.22) - who
  και ...τινες των συν 'ημιν (v.24) - who
(2) ’επι το μνημειον (v.22) - where
  ’επι το μνημειον (v.24) - where
(3) και μη ε‘υρουσαι το σωμα α’υτου (v.23) - what was found
  και εΰρον οϋτως και α‘ι γυναικες ε’ιπον (v.24) - what was found
(4) ’ηλθον λέγουσαι και ’οπτασίαν ’αγγέλων (v.23) - what was seen
  ‘εωρακέναι οϊ λέγουσιν α’υτον ξην  
  α’υτον δε ο’υκ ε’ιδον (v.24) - what was seen

Though the structure is not perfectly parallel, we can see how a certain parallelism is maintained throughout. In (1) we have two parties who make a journey, the former exclusively female, the latter apparently male (in light of Luke 24.12 and the fact that Cleopas is speaking and seems to identify with the latter group). In (2) we see that the destination of the two parties is identical. In (3) we see reversal whereby the supposed idle tale of the women is confirmed by some of the men. Point (4) brings out male-female contrast; i.e., the women faithfully reported that the angels said Jesus was alive, while the men insisted they would have to see to believe.(25) In the phrase α’υτον δε ο’υκ ε’ιδον, the word α’υτόν , is in an emphatic position indicating the chief complaint of the men. The irony reaches its peak here since it is Jesus who is being told all this, and thus the men are made to look very foolish indeed. In conclusion, we see in Luke’s main appearance narrative a vindication of Jesus’ female followers at the expense of some of His male followers.(26) The women had seen the angels and reported accurately the empty tomb and Easter message. The men could only confirm the report of the empty tomb and did not see Jesus or anyone else.

In chapter 24, Luke masterfully re-emphasizes some of his key ideas about male-female relationships which he developed during the first twenty-four chapters of his Gospel. In 24.1 - 11 we see the new prominence of women as valid witnesses, worthy of being named as such in the Gospel story. We also noted evidence of male- female contrast and role reversal, for it is the women, not the men, who receive the more complete revelation and have the less inadequate understanding of the significance of the Easter events (cf. 24.1 - 11 to 24.12; 24.22-23 to 24.24 where the women remembered and Peter wondered). In Luke 24.33-53 and 24.24 in particular we may also see Luke’s reassertion of the primacy of the community’s male leadership. Remember that Luke, if he knew of such traditions, does not include any account of an appearance of Jesus to a woman or group of women. In a sense, Luke 24 presents a microcosm of his views on these matters and prepares us for the equality of relationship of male and female, the new prominence of women, and the reassertion of male leadership which we find in Acts as accomplished and accepted facts.

As we bring this brief look at Luke’s editorial tendencies in the Third Gospel to a close, perhaps it would now be appropriate to focus on that section of the Gospel where most scholars think Luke’s theological tendencies are most evident - the birth narratives. About one-third of the uniquely Lukan Gospel material involves and highlights women and their roles. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in Luke 1-2.

C. Women in the birth narratives

It is Elizabeth and Mary, not Zechariah and Joseph, who are first to receive the message of Christ’s coming, who are praised and blessed by God’s angels, and who are first to sing and prophesy about the Christ child. Luke presents these women not only as witnesses to the events surrounding the births of John and Jesus, but also as active participants in God’s Messianic purposes. Perhaps they are also the first examples of the lowly being exalted as part of God’s plan of eschatological reversal that breaks into history with, in, and through the person of Jesus.

The first mention of Mary in Luke’s Gospel is found at 1.27 where she is introduced as a (Παρθένος) engaged to Joseph of the house of David.(27) At 1.28 we find the significant greeting,( Χαιρε), of the angel to Mary. This may be a normal Greek greeting; however, in light of (1) the parallels between Luke 1.28-38 and Zeph 3.14-20 (LXX), (2) the fact that normally a biblical ‘call’ narrative does not include such a greeting,(28) and (3) considering the way Luke depicts Mary’s response to the greeting,(29) it seems more probable F. Danker is right in saying,

Gabriel’s greeting is unusual, for women were ordinarily not addressed in this way ... That Gabriel, one of the highest members of the heavenly council, should come to the insignificant village of Nazareth and present himself before this girl - this is a miracle of the New Age and presages the announcement of the Magnificat, that the mighty are brought low and the humble exalted (vs.52).(30)

The connection between Χαιρε, κεχαριτωμέν, and χάριν (vv. 28-30) should be noted. Mary should rejoice because she is highly favored by God - she is to be graced with the privilege of giving birth to the Messiah.(31) Furthermore, Mary is even to be the first person to call His name. Luke appears to give Mary the same status as the First Evangelist gave Joseph (Matt 1.21).(32)

The crux of the annunciation story is to be found in Mary’s response in v. 34: Πως ’έσται τουτο, ’επει ’άνδρα ο’ν γινώσκω. It is unlikely this is meant to be understood as a vow to virginity since elsewhere Luke portrays Mary as reflecting the normal Jewish mindset concerning marriage and children (1.48), and since Luke’s audience could not have deduced such a vow from the text as it now stands.(33) Mary, unlike Zechariah who questioned the ‘whether’, is asking ‘how’, considering her state of betrothal and her abstinence from intercourse during that period, this conception and birth can take place now or in the near future.(34) She is seeking clarification, not proof (for which Zechariah was punished). The angel’s response can be seen as a further explanation of how Mary will conceive prior to marital consummation. Thus, νώσκω means not only that Mary has had no intercourse previously, but also that there is no prospect of it now or in the near future (an obvious necessity for normal conception).(35) This is why the angel must inform her that she will conceive (future) by the Holy Spirit.

The response of the angel (v. 35) is of particular interest because of the use of the verbs ’επέρχομαι and ’επισκιάξω. The former verb is peculiar to Luke with two exceptions (Eph 2.7 and Jas 5.1). The phrase Πνευμα ‘αγιον ’επελεύσεται’επι σέ(1.35) should be compared to ’επελθόντος του ‘αγίου πνεύματος(Acts 1.8). Mary is present both here at the birth of Jesus and at the birth of the Church (Acts 1.14). In both cases, there is a promise that ‘the Spirit will come upon you’. Luke may be intending for us to see Mary as a key link between the life of Jesus and the life of the Church.(36) The second verb,’επισκιάξω, is also of importance and here seems to mean ‘to overshadow’ in the sense of protection, and may allude to the idea of the Shekinah glory cloud of God’s divine presence (cf. Luke 9.34).(37) Thus, it is not so much a reference to a miraculous impregnation (as ’επέρχομαι is likely to be) as an assurance that Mary will have divine protection during the encounter with the Spirit and the resulting conception.(38) If so, then it is conceivable that Luke intends for us to see here the beginning of the eschatological reversal of the curse on Eve (Gen 3.16). In any case, one or both of these verbs is an explicit reference to a virginal conception.

The reaction in v. 38 to the angelic explanation is the classic expression of submission to God’s word and will -’Ιδού ‘η δούλη κυρίου γένοιτό μοι κατα το ‘ρημά σου. Luke may have written 1.38 on the basis of vv. 47-49, in which case he is presenting Mary as a model disciple responding as she ought to God’s call.(39) The first phrase of 1.38 is toned down by the translation ‘handmaiden, for the actual meaning is ‘Behold the slave of the Lord.’ Thus, Luke portrays Mary as binding herself totally to God’s will, giving up her plans and desires for the future.(40) Her response was one of submission in full recognition of what effect this act of God could have for her social position and relation to Joseph. We see the Evangelist presenting Mary as one who is willing to give up betrothal and reputation for God’s purposes, the sort of self-sacrifice which, in Luke’s Gospel, is the mark of a disciple.(41) ‘Mary is thus a model of what Israel ought to be, and her self-description is a mark of identity for the new community ...(42)

Mary is also important because Luke presents her as the connecting link between the various segments of his infancy narrative.(43) Thus, save for Jesus, she is presented as its central figure.

Mary goes to visit her kinswoman, Elizabeth, and receives from her a two-fold blessing. In vv.42-43 we learn that Mary is blessed among women because she is theμήτηρ του κυρίου μου; i.e., because the fruit of her womb is blessed. This is a derived honor, for it is the fact that she bears Jesus that makes her favored. Interestingly, it is for God’s work in the pregnancy that Mary is called blessed by all generations (1.48). The implication seems to be that motherhood and the blessedness it involves are affirmed and hallowed, for God has chosen this means to bring His Son into the world. Mary’s blessedness in her role of mother is what Elizabeth first remarks upon, and yet Mary could not have been the mother of God’s Son had she not first believed and submitted to God’s word.

Elizabeth’s second blessing relates specifically to μακαρία ‘η πιστεύσασα.(44) The word for blessing used in 1.42 is not used here In v. 45 we haveμακαρία which means ‘fortunate’ and it does not so much convey a blessing as recognize an existing state of blessedness or happiness.(45) In v.42 we have Ε’υλογημένη which recognizes that God has conferred a blessing on Mary.(46) In a sense, Luke intimates the resolution of the tension between physical and spiritual blessedness by presenting Elizabeth’s pronouncement of both blessings - it is the blessedness of believing in God’s promise that leads to the physical blessings (cf. 1.42, 45). Luke, however, indicates that Mary must yet wrestle to obtain a proper perspective on both (cf. 2.50). Her difficulty will be in learning and understanding not only her own priorities but also her Son’s priorities which must first be with His spiritual Father and family, and secondly with His physical family (cf. Luke 2.49- 51, 8.21). In the Lukan narrative, Mary has declared herself the Lord’s slave, but she has still to learn that this entails her being Jesus’ disciple first and His mother second.

What is the nature of the Magnificat? There is some internal evidence that favors the view that Luke meant this to be seen as an oracle of Elizabeth; for instance, (1) Elizabeth, as an older, childless woman is better described as having received mercy from Yahweh who was mindful of her lowly estate; (2) this song has affinities with the Song of Hannah (1 Sam. 2.1-10) whose old, barren condition is more like Elizabeth’s state than Mary’s; (3) the words of v. 56 support the idea that Elizabeth is the last speaker; (4) Luke 1.41 says that Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit which is common before prophecy, but there is no mention of Mary being so filled.(47) Luke, however, wants to make clear that Mary and Jesus are more important than Elizabeth and John. Luke uses the concluding part of his narrative to underline the point he made in vv.27-33 about Mary and Jesus. It is unlikely that Luke would have Elizabeth sing her own praises at this point.(48)

In its present context, since Luke has joined w.47-49 to what follows, the Magnificat has become a song of promise, prophetic protest, and powerful deliverance by the Lord of the poor and oppressed.(49) It is Jewish in nature and similar to the Psalms and the Song of Hannah, but it is also on the border between OT and NT literature, rooted in the OT past while shedding light on the NT present and future as God begins to do new things.(50) Mary is thus portrayed by Luke as a type of OT prophetess who proclaims OT hopes as the salvation of God breaks in; however, she differs from the OT prophetesses in that she herself helps bring in salvation. She represents Israel who obeyed God’s commands, one of the lowly and poor upon whom God has bestowed unmerited favor. She is not merely a representative symbol of Israel’s collective need and response, for the song in its introduction is about her individuality. She as an individual fulfils her people’s hopes by being the vehicle through which God’s salvation and Messiah comes. But it is wrong to suggest that Luke casts Mary in the role of a venerated saint. Rather, Mary recognizes (v. 48) that she is insignificant and of lowly estate. Her blessedness is in what God has done for her (v. 49), and thus it is God, not Mary, who receives praises in this song.(51) It is precisely because Mary is not portrayed as a sinless and angelic figure that she can be a model and a sign of hope for other believers.

The theme of Mary as ‘η δούλη κυρίου assumes greater proportions and importance(52) when we note the significance of Mary’s role in Heilsgeschichte, summed up aptly by W. Grundmann: ‘The fact that God has regard to the lowly estate of his handmaiden gives rise to the hope that His eschatological action ... is now beginning ...’(53) Mary is seen as a forerunner of a Christian disciple, one who reveals what God will do for those who accept God’s will in regard to the new thing He is bringing about.(54)

In order to obtain a more holistic perspective on Mary’s role in Luke’s infancy narratives, we must examine her role in light of that which Elizabeth plays in Luke 1-2. Luke presents a somewhat developed picture of Elizabeth, but he takes pains to cast her in the shadow of Mary (just as Elizabeth’s son is cast in the shadow of Mary’s son).(55) The stories about Elizabeth and Zechariah are uniquely Lukan, though he may have found these narratives in his source and shaped them to show that both men and women are objects of God’s salvation and subjects who convey His revelation.(56) Let us see how Luke works out this schema.

After the prologue, Luke’s Gospel begins in similar fashion to the First Evangelist - an angel appears to a man and speaks of a miraculous birth. In Luke, the angel tells Zechariah of the birth of John; Zechariah expresses doubt; and Elizabeth expresses faith. She says, ‘The Lord has done this for me ... In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among men’ (Luke 1.25). She speaks both as a typical Jewish woman and as one who has been liberated by grace to sing God’s praises. Her response anticipates Mary’s, ‘I am the Lord’s servant ... may it be to me as you have said’ (Luke 1.38), and her ‘... for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant’ (Luke 1.48). Elizabeth perhaps is portrayed as the forerunner of Mary. As Luke presents things, Elizabeth’s miraculous conception serves as a reassurance to Mary that the angel’s word is true (1.36).

Elizabeth, in her relation to Mary, reminds us of her son John’s role in the Gospels in relation to Jesus. When Elizabeth is visited by Mary she says, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ (Luke 1.42-43). Compare this to the Lukan form of John the Baptist’s words: ‘He who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie’ (Luke 3.16, cf. Mark 1.7). Both texts convey the sense of unworthiness and the clear distinction between the lesser and greater person. Luke certainly portrays Elizabeth, not Zechariah, as a person of faith. To the surprise of all the relatives and neighbors, Elizabeth gives to their son the name John, as the angel told her (Luke 1.60).(57) It is only when Zechariah concurs with Elizabeth’s words that he is freed from his dumbness and is able to praise God (1.64). Even when he does speak, his song in many ways is an echo of Mary’s (cf. 1.54 and 1.68; 1.55 and 1.72-73; 1.52 and 1.71).(58)

Just as Elizabeth is given more prominence than Zechariah, and is cast in a more favorable light as a model of faith, so too is Mary in relation to Joseph. There is little mention of Joseph (cf. 1.27) until after the major prophecies and songs have been given concerning Jesus. It is Joseph, like Zechariah, who is silent in Luke’s Gospel in contrast to Mary’s silence in Matthew 1 -2. In his way, perhaps Luke gives notice of the new freedom, equality, and importance of women in God’s plan, in contrast to the prejudices and limitations they often faced in Judaism. Luke does indicate, however, that it is Joseph who leads and guides the family on a journey, and it is to the town of his family line that they go to register (Luke 2.4-5, cf. Matt.2.13 -23).(59) While Luke’s vision of the new age does include the idea of equality for women in service and importance to the Lord, there is no indication that he is rejecting patriarchy outright in his infancy narrative.

To this point we have seen that through the prominence of Elizabeth as Mary’s forerunner and by the absence of Joseph, Mary is cast in a central role in this infancy narrative. This becomes more apparent when we examine Mary’s relationship to Anna and Simeon in the Temple.

Anna and Simeon in Luke 2 are representatives of the old order of Jewish piety and of the longings of their people for the Messiah. Simeon is described as one who has been looking for the ‘consolation of Israel’, a term for the salvation that would come to Israel in the Messianic era.(60)

Luke has Simeon bless both Joseph and Mary to indicate God’s endorsement of them in their roles as mother and father. Luke 2.33 indicates that Luke, like the First Evangelist, recognizes Joseph as Jesus’ legal parent.(61)

Luke 2.35a has been seen as a reference either to Mary’s doubts about Jesus at the cross, or to her co-suffering with Jesus beneath the cross, or to the word of God as a sword piercing Mary.(62) Luke, however, makes no mention of Mary at the cross; therefore, views involving the cross are probably inconsistent with the Evangelist’s purpose. The sword (‘ρομφαία) is symbolic of the cause of Mary’s anguish, i.e., seeing her son spoken against and rejected by her own people. She is part of true Israel, yet she is being divided between Israel and her son.(63) If the sword represents this general rejection which causes anguish, then we can see that the clause which follows refers to this rejection which reveals Israel’s true nature.(64) It is possible that Luke means to imply that Mary’s sword of rejection also entails Jesus’ apparent turning away from her (cf. Luke 8.19-21), even as early as the next scene in Luke’s account (2.41-52).

Luke frames the infancy narrative in general with a man and a woman who are connected closely with the Temple (cf. 1.5-25, 2.22-40).(65) The woman who completes the two halves of the parallel structure is Anna. She, like Simeon, is old and devout (2.37). It is possible, though not probable, that Luke intends us to see Anna as a part of an order of widows with specifically religious functions in the Temple (hence her constant presence there).(66) In view of other parallels noted between Luke 1-2 and Acts 1-2, it is possible that Luke intends that we should see in Anna a foreshadowing of the pouring out of the Spirit of prophecy on men and women (Acts 2.17).(67 ln fact, she is the only woman in the NT of whom the word προφητις is used. She stands in the line of such OT figures as Deborah and Huldah, and Luke’s shaping of the material may be the cause of her resemblance to Judith, a heroine in inter-testamental Jewish literature.(68) Possibly, Luke mentions her because she is the second and validating witness to testify of Jesus’ significance (Deut. 19.15).(69) If so, then Luke is deliberately placing a high value on the witness of a woman. Once Anna arrives and sees Jesus she goes forth to witness to the rest of the righteous remnant who longed for the Messiah (2.38). She is presented as both a prophetess and a proselytizer for the Messiah. Alfred Plummer has made an interesting comparison of Anna and Simeon.(70) Simeon comes to the Temple under the influence of the Spirit, while Anna is always there. The sight of the Messiah makes Simeon happy to encounter death, while Anna goes forth to proclaim what she has discovered. Do these two represent in Luke’s schema respectively the OT prophetic order satisfied to see the Messiah and die out, and the NT proselytizing plan that goes forth proclaiming the new thing God is doing? If there is anything to this, then it probably reveals how Luke has carefully cast his material in such a way to bring out the theological themes he desires to present.

Luke does wish to show that true Israel (Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna) recognizes the Savior, even when Jesus’ own parents do not understand fully. Mary in a sense is put in perspective as one potential disciple (among many) who does not always have the clearest insight among those who are ‘true Israel’.(71) This lack of complete understanding on Mary’s part comes out at several points in the narrative. Luke 1.29, 34, and 2.33 all point in this direction and all these verses were probably composed by Luke. In 2.41-52 it is said explicitly of Mary and Joseph -καί α’υτοι ο’υ συνηκαν το ‘ρημα ‘ο ’ελάλησεν(2.50). Luke’s inclusion of this phrase says something about his own views on the matter of Mary’s understanding. Luke does not paint an idealized portrait of Mary, but is willing to reveal both her insight and her lack of understanding. Along with the statements or implications of Mary’s lack of full understanding, we have affirmations by Luke that Mary πάντα συνετήρει τα ’ρήματα ταυτα συμβάλλουσα ’εν τη καρδία α’υτης(2.19, cf. 2.51). Thus, we see that Luke is presenting Mary as an example of a person growing toward full understanding. The point is that it will take time for Mary to understand all that happens in the course of Jesus’ earthly life.(72) Raymond Brown says,

... Luke’s idea is that complete acceptance of the word of God, complete understanding of who Jesus is, and complete discipleship is not yet possible. This will come through the ministry of Jesus and particularly through the cross and resurrection. It is no accident that the final reaction of the parents of Jesus in the infancy narrative is very much like that of the disciples of Jesus after the third passion prediction: ‘They did not understand any of these things, and this word (réma) was hidden from them’ (18:34). But Luke does not leave Mary on the negative note of misunderstanding. Rather, in 2.51 he stresses her retention of what she has not yet understood and (implicitly - see 1:19) her continuing search to understand.(73)

In Luke 2.41-52 the tension between the claims of the physical and spiritual family on Jesus are made evident when Mary(74) speaks of His father (Joseph) and Jesus replies in terms of His real Father (God).(75) In the conclusion of the pericope the Evangelist deliberately draws on a certain parallel between Mary and Jesus. He states that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and also that Mary stored up information and gave it careful consideration so that she could understand her son. Thoughtful learning is a characteristic mark of the growing disciple (Luke 8.15,18 -21, 10.39).(76) It may be that Luke wishes to make clear that while Mary recognizes Jesus’ miraculous birth, she does not understand what this may imply in regard to His life work and mission. In this she would be like other disciples who do not understand fully until after the resurrection (Luke 24.45-47). Mary is thus a very approachable model of faith with its struggles for the Lukan audience.

In the investigation of the different portions of Luke 1 -2 we have assessed the material and now we must sum up its theological value in regard to Mary. She typifies the hopes of true Israel, embodies the hope of Israel, and exemplifies the proper response to God’s plan of salvation. As Elizabeth’s two blessings indicate, God has worked both through Mary’s faith response and through her motherhood to bring about the birth of the Savior. Mary’s central role in Luke’s infancy narrative is a result of God working through Mary’s spiritual and physical being. We have noted her central role in various places in the text: (1) the Evangelist composes a scene where Mary, not Joseph, receives revelation; (2) she sings the Magnificat; (3) by Elizabeth’s own words Mary is shown to be a more crucial figure than Elizabeth herself (1.41-45); (4) Simeon addresses Mary specifically (2.35); (5) Mary alone speaks for the family at Luke 2.48; (6) while many wonder at the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, twice Mary is said to ponder their significance (2.19, 51); (7) Mary in a unique way will feel the effects of Israel’s rejection of her son (2.35); (8) Mary links the various sections of this infancy narrative (1.39, 56, 2.5, 22, 39, 41; in Luke 2 Joseph and Mary link the events).

Mary reflects the overlap between the old and new ages - she continues to fulfil the requirements of the law, but believes in the new things God will do through her. Luke 1 -2 reveals that in the context of Judaism, God can and does reveal the equality of male and female as recipients and proclaimers of God’s revelation. True Israel is called to believe in what God is doing and also to see the blessedness of the motherhood of Mary (cf. Luke 1.42, 2.34). By presenting Mary as an example of true Israel, Luke is able to describe, through one individual, both the struggles of relating a Jewish heritage to God’s eschatological activities, and the struggles of relating material blessing and the physical family to spiritual blessing and the family of faith. Significantly, from the beginning of his Gospel, Luke stresses that physical and spiritual blessings are both part of the new thing God is doing. It is not a case of being either Jesus’ mother or His disciple, but of orienting her motherhood to the priorities of faith in God’s new activity through Jesus. Her struggles in this emerge in Luke 2.41-52. As part of Luke’s presentation of the reversal the Gospel brings about, Luke stresses the way women rejoice and are liberated as God acts. Elizabeth is liberated from the curse of barrenness and the reproach of Jewish men; Mary is liberated to sing and prophesy even in a situation where she would appear to be of questionable character; Anna is motivated to witness to those looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. The male characters in this narrative, however, either remain silent (Joseph), are struck dumb (Zechariah), or ask to be dismissed in peace (Simeon). While other figures in the infancy narrative fade into the background, Mary with her son are carried over into the ongoing story of the Gospel. In fact, she is the one female figure who reappears by name in Luke’s second volume, and to it we will now turn.

D. The Book of Acts - women in the primitive Church

It would not be true to say that Luke features women and their roles in his Book of Acts to the same degree as he did in his Gospel. Nevertheless, there are certain traces of Lukan male-female parallelism, and perhaps male-female role reversal in the material not directly focusing on women, and women figure prominently in some of the reductional summaries. It is also probably not accidental that in the few texts where Christian women do receive attention, Luke gives us something of a survey of the different roles they played in the earliest days of Church history, as his invitation, based on historical precedent, to his audience to ‘go and do likewise’.

1. Incidental references to male-female parallelism, male-female role reversal, and female prominence

There are certain incidental features of Acts that appear to reflect Luke’s penchant for male-female parallelism. We find examples of it both inside and outside the Christian community. Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5.1-11) are in some respects negative counterparts to Priscilla and Aquila, even though they apparently were members of the Christian community. Luke is exercised to show that both husband and wife were equally culpable (cf. vv. 2, 8b), the former attempting to deceive Peter, the latter lying openly to him. The actions of this couple stand in contrast to the exceptional generosity and honesty of the only other Christian couple to whom Luke gives significant attention - Priscilla and Aquila. Perhaps Luke chose to present Christian couples who were polar opposites in order to provide examples for Christians to avoid or to emulate. Luke stresses the parallels in intention and activity of the male and female members of both couples.

It is also noteworthy that Luke gives examples of male-female partnership outside the Christian community, especially when he refers to governing authorities. The examples of Felix and Drusilla (24.24) and Agrippa and Bernice (25.13 -26.12) come to mind. Luke’s mention of Agrippa and Bernice three times (25.13, 23, 26.20) is hard to understand since they play no real part in the story. Perhaps Luke has a concern to show that the Word goes out to men and women of all social classes, and that prominent women who hear the Gospel sometimes heed it (cf. Luke 8.3; Acts 16.11-15).

An examination of Luke’s summaries reveals that he wishes to stress both male-female parallelism and the reception of the Gospel by prominent women. For example, in the process of recording the swelling tide of conversion (2.41, 47, 4.4), Luke points out specifically at 5.14: μαλλον δε προσετίθεντο πιστεύοντες τω κυρίω πλήθη’ανδρων τε και γυναικων. When Saul decides to persecute the Christians in Damascus, he plans to seize ’άνδρας τε και γυναικας (9.2, cf. 8.3). This should imply to Luke’s readers that the women were significant enough in number and/or importance to the cause of The Way that Saul did not think he could stop the movement without taking women as well as men prisoners. We find this sort of parallelism at 17.34 as well where Luke gives us the name of one male (Διονύσιος)and one female (Δάμαρις ) who were among those converted at Athens.(77) In fact, two genderspecific groups serve as a parenthesis around two particular names.

Luke’s interest in prominent women converts is seen at 17.4 where we find mentioned γυναικων τε των πρώτων ο’υκ ’ολίγαι. At 17.12 we find και των ‘Ελληνίδων γυναικων των ε’υσχημόνων. These women are apparently among those who ‘searched the Scriptures’ (17.11), even though Jewish women (or God-fearing proselytes) normally were not allowed to study the Tanak. Thus, Luke may be pointing to the new freedom given to women by the Gospel even as they were in the process of accepting it.(78) Interestingly, in each passage it is the women, not the men, who are qualified by words indicating their importance or eminence.

One of the major themes in Luke’s Gospel is the idea of reversal of roles or expectations - the last become first, the first becoming servants. Luke carries this theme over into his second volume to some extent; for instance, in Acts 6.1-7. Stephen and Philip, who are among the prominent preachers and teachers of the Word in the early part of Acts (cf. 6.8-8.40), are among the seven chosen to supervise the food distribution to the widows or even to wait on tables. Thus, leading men are chosen for a task that normally a male servant would fulfil in a Palestinian Jewish setting, or a woman would fulfil in a Hellenistic or Roman setting.(79) In the eyes of the Hellenists, for a prominent man to fulfil such a task would be demeaning and a reversal of roles with a man doing a woman’s or servant’s work.

2. Women as prominent converts and μητέρες συναγωγης

At various points in my earlier monograph I noted Jesus’ tendency to rely on the system of standing hospitality.(80) It was suggested that this reliance implied an endorsement of certain roles commonly assumed by women. Perhaps now we may tentatively hypothesize that this reliance and Jesus’ instructions to His closest friends to rely on this system (cf. Matt 10.5-32; Luke 9.2-5, 10.1-16), not only set a precedent for the traveling missionaries in the early Church, but also established a practice from which came the house church. If this supposition is correct, then it explains why prominent women are mentioned wherever house churches are mentioned in the NT. Women converts of some means who initially were offering occasional lodging and hospitality to fellow Christians, became the Christian equivalent of a μήτηρ συναγωγης (81) as their homes became regular meeting places of the converts in their area. In a sense, the Church owed its continuing existence to these prominent women who provided both a place for meeting and the hospitality required by the community. A woman’s customary role of providing hospitality to visiting guests became a means by which they could support and sustain the Church.

Luke’s interest in lodging and hospitality has long been a recognized feature of both his Gospel and Acts.(82) D.W. Riddle suggests that these people and places are mentioned, not in order to historicize an otherwise non-descriptive narrative or to give it the feel of authenticity, but in order to recognize those who helped in the transmission of the Gospel in those early days.(83) Luke’s second volume is about the spreading of the Gospel and those who made it possible; these places of lodging and hosts are mentioned as vital supports to that movement. However, it is not just a matter of these families providing temporary lodging for traveling Christian preachers and prophets, but a matter of providing a place where the Gospel could be preached and oral and written traditions could be collected. Thus, we may see hospitality not only as the physical support that kept the message going, but also as the medium in which the message took hold and was preserved. Riddle suggests:

These examples of hospitality suggest that the custom may account for a notable phenomenon of those days: the acceptance of the travelling preacher’s message by entire households ... That the primitive churches were housechurches is a detail of this, and an aspect of early Christian hospitality.(84)

Christian hospitality was obviously a vital factor both in the intensive (home becomes house-church) and the extensive (home-as-lodging for missionary and the Word) growth of the early Church. Inasmuch as women were mainly responsible for the hospitality of that day in a situation where the house was the center for the Church, women quite naturally were in the forefront of providing the modus vivendi for Christian life and growth, and the spread of the Gospel. Probably, it is no accident that at the only two points in Acts where Luke clearly tells us of a church meeting in a particular person’s home (12.12, 16.40), not just a place of lodging or hospitality, it is in the home of a woman. Perhaps Luke chose these examples in order to point out the role women, particularly prominent well-to-do (84) women, played in the growth of the early Church.(85)

3. Mary, mother of John Mark

As has been the case throughout this chapter, we are not concerned to raise or answer the question of the historical value of this material. Rather, we wish to ask how Luke is using his source material and what sort of teaching or examples he is providing for his audience.

Luke tells us that Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of John called Mark (Acts 12.12-17). Luke portrays Mary as a widow whom Luke’s audience would know primarily because of her son. Luke means us to see Mary as financially well-to-do; for many (‘ικανοί) could meet in her house which has την θύραν του πυλωνος (v.13), and a παιδίσκη named Rhoda.(86) Mary’s house is portrayed as a place for συνηθροισμένοι καί προσευχόμενοι implying that it was a regular meeting place. Perhaps we are meant to think of this as a prayer meeting primarily attended by women since (1) a woman answers the door in the middle of the night, and (2) Peter’s words make clear that James and ‘the brethren’ are not at the meeting (v. 17).87 If so, then it should not be overlooked that Peter entrusted his parting words to a group of women.

Luke may be implying that this particular prayer meeting included Rhoda, the servant girl, for it says she came to answer the knock at the door implying that she was within the house at the prayer meeting.(88) Luke may be indicating the equalizing effects of the Gospel so that not only women, but even slaves, were accepted as participating members of the new community (cf. Acts 1.14). Unfortunately, when Rhoda relates her good news, she receives a response similar to that which Jesus’ female followers received at Easter (cf. Luke 24.11). Rhoda’s audience thought she was mad (μαίνη). Possibly, Luke is providing an example of latent prejudices against a woman’s, particularly a female servant’s, word of witness. Nevertheless, in the story Rhoda’s perseverance pays off, her word is vindicated, and because of her persistence, a crucial message is passed to the Christian community to be sent on to its leaders.

Thus, the witness of a woman is shown to be trustworthy, and Luke presents Rhoda as an example for his audience. Also, that Luke points out that Mary would hold such a meeting in a time of mounting opposition in Jerusalem to the Christian movement is evidence that Luke is portraying one woman’s courageous contribution to the community of faith. Perhaps here, as in Luke 24.11, Luke intended a rebuke to those in his audience who had a tendency to devalue the word or work of women.(89) Finally, this pericope also presents God’s answer to the prayer of Mary and others, and thus reveals His confirmation of the activities in which Luke indicates early Christian women were engaged.

4. Lydia

As noted in chapter 1, women were allowed to play a significant part in Macedonian society from the Hellenistic age onward. It is not surprising that Luke should wish to relate a story about prominent Macedonian women who not only were converted to Christianity, but also assumed important roles in the Christian community.

As elsewhere in Acts, Luke chooses what may be called representative examples of conversions in the area covered by his narrative.

It is probably not accidental that he focuses primarily on the conversion of one woman (16.12-15, 40) and one man (16.23-39). It appears that Luke’s intention is once again to convey a certain male - female parallelism, not for its own sake, but in order to stress the quality of man and woman in God’s plan of salvation, and their equal importance to the new community.(90)

The structure of Acts 16.12-40 is important to our discussion, for it reveals how vital it was that Lydia provide a meeting place for Christians.(91) The Gospel is seen to triumph in the midst of the Jewish meeting place (16.14-15), and in the midst of a Roman stronghold (in the city, cf. 16.18-19, and in their prison, cf. 16.25 -26). It is seen to triumph over natural and supernatural powers, whether it be magistrates and their jails, or demons. Luke is at pains to show that the Gospel and its followers can exist within the confines of a place of Roman authority by creating its own space ‘in house’. That Luke portrays a woman, Lydia, providing such a meeting place for Christians in the city is crucial. Thus, he shows that the faith, while not subservient to Rome, is not fundamentally at odds with the Roman empire or its authorities.

The story of Lydia is extraordinary in many regards. In some ways she should not be seen as a typical Macedonian woman, for Luke portrays Lydia as having come to Philippi from her native city of Thyatira, famous for its production of clothing goods with a distinctive and very popular royal purple dye.(92) Perhaps we are meant to think she had moved to an environment where she could better take advantage of imperial Roman tastes and needs.

One of the significant messages it seems Luke is trying to get across is that Paul, in contrast to his Jewish background, is willing to begin a local church with a group of women converts. That women could constitute the embryonic church, but not the embryonic synagogue, reveals the difference in the status of women in the two faiths at that time, and it seems likely that Luke intended us to draw this contrast by mentioning the (Προσευχήν) in v. 13 and the church meeting in v. 40 in Lydia’s house.(93)

Luke tells us that on the sabbath, Paul and his companions went down to the riverside outside the city gates, sat down (assuming the posture of a Jewish rabbi), and taught the women gathered at the place of prayer. Among them may have been some Jewesses, but there was one prominent God-fearer (σεβομένη τον θεόν) who had also brought along members of her household.(94) Just as Paul’s coming to Macedonia was due to revelation (God’s work), so Lydia’s conversion is to be seen as God’s work —‘ο κύριος διήνοιξεν την καρδίαν προσέχειν τοις λαλουμένοις ‘υπο του Παύλου(V. 14, cf. Luke 24.45). Luke intimates that God intended Lydia and her household to be the first converts in Macedonia so that the initial European church would have a good home. Lydia responded to God’s work in her life by begging Paul and his company to take advantage of her hospitality,(95) basing her plea on Paul’s acceptance of her as a sincere convert to Christianity. Perhaps Luke means us to see here a portrait of a woman who had grasped from the first that whatever barriers being a Gentile and a single woman might erect in regard to housing non-Christians (particularly Jews) in her home, these barriers were no longer obstacles to Christians, even Christian males whom she had just met.(96) Luke intimates faith was the only door she had to pass through to be accepted as a disciple and a hostess of disciples.

Lydia’s significance was not confined to her being a disciple or hostess to traveling disciples. Luke wishes us to understand that what began as a lodging for missionaries, became the home of the embryonic church in Philippi. This is intimated by the fact that when Paul and Silas emerge from prison they go to Lydia’s house to encourage the brethren (16.40), rather than to the Philippian jailer’s house where they had also been entertained (16.34). Once again, we see how a woman’s fruitful role of providing hospitality played an integral part in the establishment and continuance of a local church.997) The manner of Luke’s telling of this story reflects clearly his interest in showing the advantages to various underprivileged groups in embracing Christianity. Here a woman progresses from being a marginal member of a Jewish circle in which she could never receive the covenantal sign, to being a central figure in the local Christian church and the first baptized convert in Europe.

5. Women as deaconesses

No one is certain when the office of deaconess began in the Church. At the very least it seems probable that the office had its origins in Apostolic times,(98) and perhaps the first traces of its existence may be found in the NT (cf. Rom 16.1, 1 Tim 3. 11). What seems more certain and demonstrable is that women were performing in NT times the functions later associated with the office of deaconess. Possibly, we find Luke’s development of the idea of women serving the community by providing material aid in Acts 9.36-42.

In Actc 9 12-42 we find a sequence of two miraculous deeds by Peter - one performed for a man, one for a woman. The account of the healing of Aeneas is very brief (vv. 32-35), and we may conjecture that Luke included it merely to create a certain male-female parallelism which reveals how the Gospel ministers equally to both sexes. Aeneas, a paralytic, bed-ridden for eight years, is healed by Peter’s proclamation that Jesus heals him (similarly v. 40). We are told that πάντες ο‘ι κατοικουντες; in the area of Lydda and Sharon saw that Aeneas was healed and ’επέστρεφαν ’επι τον κύριον.. We may compare this conclusion to the end of the Tabitha story where it is stated, και ’επίστευσαν πολλοι κύριον (V. 42). This is the only detail of the Tabitha story which is somewhat less spectacular than the Aeneas story in fact or effect. In Acts 9.32-42 there is a clear crescendo in the miraculous - whereas Aeneas is healed of paralysis, Tabitha is raised from the dead (cf. v. 37, ’αποθανειν). In other respects as well, the story and person of Tabitha are presented in a more positive light than the story and person of Aeneas. While it appears that Aeneas was a Christian (cf. 9.32), he is not specifically called a disciple as is Tabitha. Further, there is no real interest in Aeneas himself, only in the fact of his healing. By contrast, the story of Tabitha relates in a specific way what Tabitha did and why she was important to the community (cf. vv. 36, 39). There is an obvious interest in her person reflected in the mentioning of the details of the funeral preparations (w. 37, 39). Finally, the story indicates that Peter recognized how important she was to the community, for he makes a point of presenting her to the disciples (v. 41), which did not happen in Aeneas’ case. This story may be taken as an example of the Lukan interest in giving a woman more prominence than a man.

Perhaps the main reason for the Tabitha story is that Luke wishes to reveal how a woman functioned as a deaconess, a very generous supporter of widows. It is interesting that at the outset of the story Luke presents her credentials, and they are the sort one would look for in a deaconess. We are told that Tabitha, also called Dorcas,(99) was a female disciple (μαθήτρια), a term used nowhere else in the NT.(100) Perhaps Luke reserved this term for her because among the Christian women he mentions she best exemplified the behavior of a true disciple. We are told that Tabitha literally was ‘full of good works’,(101) which meant that she was engaged continually in performing good works. In addition, we are told that she gave money or material aid to the needy, and v. 38 implies that this was a service given solely to community members.(102) Some of her good works involved making outer and under garments for needy women. Luke seems to depict Tabitha as at least moderately well-off and single (unmarried or widowed)(103) That Tabitha’s service has been to α‘ι χηραι (v.39), indicates a specialized and ongoing ministry, not just an occasional good deed to friends or neighbors. The description of Tabitha is reminiscent of Luke 8.3 and Acts 6. 1-7, and thus it seems that Luke depicts Tabitha as fulfilling a task similar in kind to the work of the Seven.

Possibly, Luke here paints a portrait of a woman commissioned for ministry, for Tabitha’s efforts are depicted as an ongoing concern directed to a specialized group of recipients. It is possible that Luke intimates Tabitha is in charge of an order of widows.(104) Thus, she would be presented as a model of one who builds up and maintains the community by her service and living example of the power of the Gospel. It is the presentation of Tabitha as a model disciple that differentiates this story from that of Aeneas.(105)

6. Women as prophetesses

Luke’s passing reference to Philip’s daughters (Acts 21.9) seems to be made partly because of his interest in the theme of fulfilment (Luke 1.1, 20, 4.21, 21.22-24, 22.16, etc.). In the daughters of Philip it appears Luke mainly means us to see the first recognized and recorded examples of Christian prophetesses in the Apostolic age. But, what sort of prophetesses are portrayed here? Were they of the sort we find in Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthians (1 Cor 11.5), and thus perhaps involved in ecstatic utterance? Or, are we to see them as female counterparts to Agabus (Acts 11.28, 21.10-11), and thus a continuation of the type of prophet we find in the OT? Or, are we to see them as some combination of these two types?

A survey of all Luke’s references to prophets and prophesying in his two volumes leads to the following conclusions:

(1) Prophets and their functions are significant themes throughout Luke-Acts and relate closely to Luke’s stress on fulfilment and the Holy Spirit.(106)

(2) Luke makes a point of establishing that his most important, or at least his exemplary, characters are prophets: John the Baptist (Luke 1.76, 7.26, 20.6); Jesus (Luke 4.18-24, 7.16, 39, 9.19, 13.34, 22.64, 24.19); Peter (Acts 1.20, 2.4-21, 5.3, 9, 11.15-17); Paul (Acts 13.1, 9-11, 17.2-3, cf. 24.14, 26.22-27, 27.10, 23-24, 31, 34); Elizabeth (Luke 1.41-45); Mary or Elizabeth (Luke 1.46-55); Anna (Luke 2.36-38); Agabus (Acts 11.27-28, 21.10- l l ); Judas and Silas (Acts 15.32).

(3) Luke appears to limit the term προφήτης to a select group; i.e., some of the church leaders (cf. Acts 15.22, 32).(107)

(4) Prophecy is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and while it may be accompanied by glossolalia, it is not identical with that phenomenon (cf. Acts 19.6).

(5) Most of the prophecies recorded in Luke-Acts are citations of OT prophecies that are seen as referring to Jesus, to some event in His life, or to some event that results from His ministry (e.g., the giving of the Spirit).

(6) NT prophets are seen as engaged primarily in discerning the fulfilment of the predictive prophecy of the OT, rather than in giving new predictive prophecy of their own, though the latter is somewhat in evidence (cf. Acts 11.28, 27.10, 23-24, 31, 34).

(7) Prophets are shown to have a supernatural ability to discern people’s character (Luke 7.39-50; Acts 6.3, etc).

(8) There are false prophets but they are not as powerful as Christian prophets (Acts 13.6; cf. Luke 6.26). ;

(9) Israel’s continual character is summed up by the term prophet-killer (cf. Luke 11.48-51, 13.34; Acts 7.52).

At this point we may quote Ellis: ‘... Christian prophecy in Acts is represented as an eschatological power of the Holy Spirit from God (Ac 2.17) or from the risen Jesus (Ac 1.8, 2.17, and 3, cf. Psa 68.19[18], Eph 4.8). Although prophecy is a possibility for any Christian, it is primarily identified with certain leaders who exercise it as a ministry. (108) As Ellis suggests, Philip’s daughters are probably depicted as included among these leaders, since they appear to be more than just occasional prophesiers.(109)

It is not clear how we should take παρθένοι. If it means ‘virgins’ then Luke may be attempting to say that early on there was an order of single women who had a certain ministry to the Church.(110) Because of the conjunction παρθένοι and προφητεύουσαιit would seem that Luke is not just making an abstract or irrelevant statement about the virginity of Philip’s daughters.(111) These are the two main facts he relates about these women and it seems natural to suppose that Luke gives us these facts because they are related to their roles and their spiritual example for the Church. The participial form, προφητεύουσαι, points to an activity or gift rather than an office, but in view of Luke 2.36 it is doubtful that Luke deliberately tried to avoid calling them prophetesses. Perhaps we should not make too rigid a distinction between these women’s functions or gifts and their office. However, it may be that Luke intends his audience to see a connection between these women being virgins and their having particular gifts and roles. It is probably not coincidental that most of the women we find in Acts playing a significant role were either single or widowed.(112)

7. Women as teachers

In Acts 18.1-3, 24-26 we have a story about a husband and wife team of Christian missionaries and teachers. Luke’s concern is not so much with what Apollos was taught by Priscilla and Aquila (the content of the teaching is never clearly mentioned), or the results of that teaching, but that he was taught ‘more accurately’ by this couple. This suggests that his concern is not doctrinal but personal - he may wish to indicate the role of this couple (and particularly of Priscilla).

The person we are most concerned with is Priscilla, not Aquila, and it is noteworthy that four out of the six times the two are mentioned in the NT, Priscilla’s name comes first (Acts 18.18, 26; Rom 16.3; 2 Tim 4.19) in most of the best manuscripts (N, B, et al.). Quite clearly Priscilla’s name being predominantly first is unusual and perhaps significant.

As W. Bauer points out, it was not unheard of in antiquity for a woman’s name to precede her husband’s,(113) but it certainly was not usual to mention the woman first in Jewish and even Christian circles. Luke himself is careful to distinguish Aquila from Priscilla in Acts 18.2. It is only Aquila who is a Jew from Pontus, thus possibly implying that Priscilla was from the city they had recently left Rome.(114) Thus, it has been suggested that there is a special significance in the prominence of Priscilla’s name over Aquila’s. The suggestions usually have been that Luke intends his audience to think of Priscilla as of higher social rank,(115) or of more prominence in the Church,(116) or both, than her husband.(117)

There are good reasons for thinking that Luke depicts Priscilla and Aquila as being Christians before they met Paul. As E. Haenchen remarks, ‘That a Jewish couple expelled because of the conflict with Christians in Rome deliberately gave a Christian missionary work and shelter is far more improbable than that Paul found lodgings with Christians who had fled from Rome.’(118) If Luke means us to think of Priscilla and Aquila as already Christians, then we also see why Paul immediately leaves them in Ephesus - to lay some foundations for his later evangelistic work in that city. Haenchen adds, ‘... the interest which the author obviously takes in Aquila and Priscilla ... shows that they were so important to the history of the Christian mission that Luke could not overlook them.(119)

What role do we find Priscilla and Aquila taking? Though Priscilla and Aquila’s instructions may have included various matters of Christian doctrine, it is probable that Luke implies that it included instruction in the Christian practice of baptism, since the one deficiency in Apollos’ knowledge clearly indicated in the text is that he knew only the baptism of John. >την ‘οδόν του θεου is likely to involve a matter of practice.(120) Probably, ’ακριβέστερον is an elative comparative rather than a true comparative.(121) If this is true, then τα περι του ’Іησου is to be contrasted with την ‘οδον του θεου, the latter referring to matters of Christian initiation (i.e., Christian baptism), and the former to the story of Jesus. If so, then Apollos was a Christian who needed some advanced instruction primarily on a matter of practice (the ‘way’ of Christian baptism).

We are now in a position of discuss Priscilla’s part in these matters. It is stated clearly that both she and Aquila instructed Apollos (’εξέθεντο) and her name is mentioned first, so that if anyone is indicated by Luke as the primary instructor, it is Priscilla.(122) By ‘more accurately’ Luke depicts Priscilla as expounding the matter further than basic Christian teaching, or at least in a way that involves the whole panorama of Christian teaching, so the place of the part would be seen in relation to the whole. Apollos is depicted as already having basically a correct framework and knowledge about τα περι του ’Ιησου. Further, Apollos is not just any convert to the faith but a man ‘well versed in scripture’, and this presupposes that Luke wants his audience to see that Priscilla and Aquila were also adept and knowledgeable enough in scripture to teach Apollos in such a fashion that he would accept it from both a woman and a man. Obviously, since Luke does not care to expound on exactly what was taught, it is the fact of the teaching and the identity of the teachers and pupil he wishes his audience to note. There may be special considerations involved, i.e., Priscilla and Aquila are portrayed as a team, and perhaps a team ministry is different from a woman acting alone. It appears, however, that Luke depicts Priscilla as taking the initiative here, if either one did, and her being married does not seem to be a determining factor. The fact that this act took place in at least semiprivacy is probably not very significant in terms of its possible implications for correct church practice, since there is no indication that Luke was trying to avoid having Priscilla teach Apollos in a worship context.(123)

Not all the implications of Acts 18.24-26 are clear, but certainly Luke portrays Priscilla as a Συνεργός of Paul in the Gospel. As John Chrysostom says, ‘He sailed for Syria ... and with him Priscilla - Lo, a woman also - and Aquila. But these he left at Ephesus with good reason, namely that they should teach.(124)

8. Conclusions

At the beginning of this section we remarked that Luke does not feature women to the same degree in this second volume as he did in his first. While there is no need to modify this statement, we should go on to add that in Acts, Luke gives us five important glimpses into the roles he affirms for women in the Christian community. Further, he indicates his interest in women and their roles in some of his reductional summaries and his male-female parallelism.

Luke’s five vignettes about Christian women are interesting and important because they reveal the variety of roles Luke intimated women could, and perhaps did, assume in the primitive community. In the mother of John Mark and in Lydia we see women assuming the role of ‘mother’ to the fledgling Christian community in Jerusalem and Philippi respectively. This involved providing both the home and the hospitality needed for the local Christian missionaries passing through. Thus, Luke implies that women who do such things aid both the intensive and extensive growth of the Christian community.

The role we see Tabitha playing in Acts 9 is similar to that of Lydia and the mother of John Mark in that it entails providing material aid to the believers. In Tabitha’s case, it appears to be a more specific ministry to widows. We conjectured that because of the specific and ongoing nature of her good works, we may have here evidence that Luke argued that women should be, and perhaps were, commissioned by the local community as deaconesses in the primitive Church. Certainly, Tabitha is depicted as serving in some of the capacities later associated with that office so that even if she was not labeled or commissioned as a deaconess, Luke may still be presenting her as a prototype of a deaconess. That Luke calls her a female disciple, a word used nowhere else in the NT, may be his way of indicating to his audience that the actions in this story are exemplary of how Christian women ought to be and act. Nevertheless, he shows no desire to confine women to roles that only involved providing material assistance, for he also mentions women who prophesied and women who taught.

Luke’s mention of Philip’s prophesying daughters is tantalizingly brief, but it is sufficient to indicate that Luke affirmed women were involved in this important activity that had its roots in OT practice but also manifested the new gift of the Spirit (Acts 2.17). Prophesying was not the activity of every early Christian and a good case has been made by Ellis for seeing it as primarily identified in Acts as the task of certain church leaders. If so, then perhaps the reference in Acts 21.9 to the fact that Philip’s daughters prophesied is more important than it might at first appear. We also learned from Acts 21.8-9 that Philip’s daughters were virgins. Possibly Luke mentions this because he thought that in a woman’s case being single was a prerequisite for the task of prophesying (or the office of prophetess, cf. Luke 2.36-37), or, less likely, because he intended to depict Philip’s daughters as being part of an order of virgins. Here we also see Luke indicating that roles other than the traditional ones of wife and mother were possible and appropriate for Christian women, and perhaps in Philip’s daughters we may see early examples of the sort of roles these women were assuming.

Perhaps most important of all is Luke’s reference to Priscilla in Acts 18. Apart from Jesus’ mother, she alone among the Christian women mentioned by name in Acts is referred to in several other places in the NT. Her significance is not confined to the fact that it is intimated she is more important or more prominent than her husband, or that she was one of Paul’s co-laborers in and for the Gospel. Priscilla is presented as a teacher, and not just a teacher of other women or some nameless converts, but as someone adept enough to give Apollos, a leading male evangelist (Acts 18.24-8; I Cor 1.12, 3.4-6), a ‘more accurate’ instruction possibly about the important matter of Christian baptism. By including this story, Luke reveals the new roles women ought to be assuming in his view in the Christian community. Luke’s portrayal of Priscilla is unreservedly positive, thus, it is fair to assume that Luke is presenting her as a model for the behavior of at least part of his audience.

By the very fact that Luke portrays women performing these various roles, he shows how the Gospel liberates and creates new possibilities for women. It is probably true that Luke is not interested in woman and their roles for their own sake; rather, the incidental evidence and the five vignettes we have studied in Acts reveal how the Gospel manifested itself and progressed among the female population in various parts of the first-century Mediterranean world. In Jerusalem (1.14, 12.12-17), in Joppa (9.36-42), in Philippi (16.11 - 15), in Corinth (18.1 -3), in Ephesus (18.19-26), in Thessalonica (17.4), in Beroea (17.12), and in Athens (17.34), we fnd women being converted or serving the Christian community in roles that normally would not have been available to them apart from that community. Thus, Luke chronicles the progress of women as part of the progress and effects of the Christian Gospel. Though it is not perhaps one of his major themes in Acts, nonetheless he takes care to reveal to his audience that where the Gospel went, women, often prominent, were some of the first, foremost, and most faithful converts to the Christian faith, and that their conversion led to their assuming new roles in the service of the Gospel.

Why then did Luke go to such lengths to stress and indeed support the role of women in the earliest Christian churches? It is a reasonable hypothesis that when Luke wrote in the last quarter of the first century there was still considerable resistance to such ideas among his audience, and so the case had to be made in some detail. Though we have not seen evidence in this chapter to warrant the conclusion that Luke totally rejected the patriarchal framework of his culture, he is exercised, like Paul, to stress a transformed vision of such a framework and to uphold a model of servant leadership (Luke 22.24-30). At the same time, however, Luke stresses the viability of women performing various tasks of ministry for the community. Luke and Paul stand together in maintaining a tension between the reformation of the old order and the affirmation of the new ’εν χρισστω.


1. On all this, cf. H. Flender, St Luke - Theologian of Redemptive History (London: SPCK, 1967) 9-10, and J. Drury, Tradition and Design in Luke’s Gospel - A Study in Early Christian Historiography (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1976) 71.

2. Flender, St Luke, 10.

3. Cf. Frederick W. Danker, Jesus and theNew Age According to St Luke (St Louis: Clayton Pub. House, 1972) 209; Taylor, Mark, 497.

4. Cf. Witherington, Women, 100-3; and B. Witherington, ‘On the road with Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and other disciples: Luke 8.1-3’, ZNW 70 (3-4, 1979) 242-8.

5. I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, A Commentary of the Greek Text (NIGTC; Exeter: Paternoster, 1978) 486.

6. Witherington, Women, 35ff.

7. C. F. Evans, Resurrection and the New Testament (London: SCM, 1970) 103; cf. Luke 8.1-3, 23.55. Luke omits Mark’s promised appearance in Galilee, probably because of his Jerusalem schema.

8. This sort of remembering may be seen as the prolegomenon to a faith response, but it is not clear that ‘to remember’ is equivalent to ‘to respond in faith’. But cf. Danker, Jesus, 247; John M. Creed, The Gospel According to St Luke (London: Macmillan andCo., 1930)294;E.L.Bode, The First Easter Morning - The Gospel Accounts of Women’s Visit to the Tomb of Jesus (Rome: Biblical Institute, 1970) 62, 67; O. Michel, ‘μιμνήσκομαι’, TDNT 4 (1967) 677.

9. This feature, probably not derived from Mark’s (lost) ending, may reflect Luke’s tendency to maximize the visibility and importance of the women’s roles.

10. Cf. Evans, Resurrection, 104; Danker, Jesus, 247.

11. I. H. Marshall, ‘The resurrection of Jesus in Luke’, TynB 24 (1973) 55 -98; X. Léon-Dufour, Resurrection and the Message of Easter (New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1974) 151, suggests that the list is here in order to link the death, burial, and resurrection. The placement of the list and at least part of its contents appears to be derived from Luke’s special source. Cf. R. H. Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1971) 95.

12. Cf. Léon-Dufour, Resurrection, 153.

13. It seems likely that the juxtaposition of τοις λοιποις and α‘ι λοιπαί is meant to imply a group of men in the former instance and a group of women in the latter. Cf. Marshall, ‘Resurrection’, 74.

14. Cf. Léon-Dufour, Resurrection, 159. Luke may add these other women at this point to create the impression of numerous witnesses of the empty tomb who went to the Apostles, and thus rule out the Eleven’s excuse that it was only an idle tale of one or two hysterical women. The translation in the JB probably best conveys Luke’s meaning. The reading ’ην δέ in K and other mss. is also probably a later correction and, interestingly, it singles out Mary Magdalene for special mention.

15. Joanna may be Luke’s addition. Cf. Marshall, ‘Resurrection’, 74.

16. Cf. P. Schubert, ‘The structure and significance of Luke 24’, Neutestamentliche Studien für Rudolf Bultmann BZNW 21 (Berlin: A. Töpelmann, 1957) 168, and n.12, cf. p.174.

17. Cf. Marshall, ‘Resurrection’, 71; Bode, First EasterMorning, 67, 71.

18. Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Luke (ICC; 5th ed.; Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1922) 550; William Manson, The Gospel of Luke (MNTC; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1930) 265.

19. Assimilation might be a possible reason for omitting w.6 and 12. This does not, however, outweigh the following considerations: Lukan male-female parallelism, Luke’s stress on Peter, and Luke’s point that faith only comes from an appearance of Jesus who instructs His disciples on the basis of the Word, all argue for seeing v.12 as Lukan and an original part of our text. Cf. Metzger, TC, 184; A. R. C. Leaney, ‘The resurrection narratives in Luke (xxiv. 1253)’, NTS 2 (1955 -56) l lO- 14 Bode, FirstEasterMorning, 68-9; E. E. Ellis, The Gospel of Luke (NCB: Greenwood: Attic, 1974 rev. ed.) 272-3.

20. Cf. Marshall, Luke, 888.

21. Cf. A. Feuillet, ‘La découverte du tombeau vide en Jean 20, 3-10 et la foi au Christ ressuscité’, EspV 87 (1977) 273-4. Further, only Peter may be mentioned in 24.12 in order to stress the irony or reversal involved in having the chief Apostle confirm the women’s message. Cf. P. Benoit, ‘Marie Madeleine et les disciples au tombeau salon Joh 20, 1-18‘, Judentum Urchristentum Kirche. Festschrift für Joachim Jeremias. ZNW 26 (ed. W. Eltester; Berlin: A. Töpelmann, 1960) 148.

22. Cf. Léon-Dufour, Resurrection, 116.

23. Schubert, ‘Structure’, 172, concludes that the traditional empty tomb has little or no significance on the basis of the critique of 24.24. This fails to recognize that Luke is not devaluing the women’s witness in 24.24 but rather is depicting the obtuseness of the followers to whom the women reported.

24. These parallels are suggested by J. D’Arc, ‘Catechesis on the road to Emmaus’, LV 32:2 (1977) 143-56. Various scholars have conjectured that the unnamed disciple was a woman, perhaps Cleopas’ wife. Cf. G. B. Caird, The Gospel of St Luke (PNTC; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963) 259; Marshall, Luke 894. This may be so, but Luke makes nothing of the fact and thus the conjecture deserves no more than a passing mention.

25. So D’Arc, ‘Catechesis’, 151 -3; cf. Marshall, Luke, 896; J. Reiling and J. L. Swellengrebel, A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Luke (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1971) 753.

26. It is possible that Luke means to imply Peter’s precedence over these two disciples in receiving an appearance. Cf. vv.24, 34; Evans, Resurrection, 106. This might be an attempt to restore Peter to his pre-eminent place after he experiences less at the empty tomb than the women.

27. By this term Luke is making clear that Mary had no intimate sexual relations before the confrontation with Gabriel (so Danker, Jesus, 10). G. Delling, ‘παρθένος’, TDNT 5 (1967) 826-36, is probably right that, as in Matthew, the focus is on the specialness of Jesus and His birth, and that παρθένος is not used for ascetic or docetic reasons. The birth in the narrative is depicted as a normal human birth (Luke 2.23). Elizabeth conceives and gives birth through the natural agency, but with God’s help, since she and Zechariah are old. Mary, the παρθένος, conceives by an act of God alone. Cf. C.H. Dodd, ‘New Testament translation problems I’, BT 27 (3, 1976) 301 -5, and the reply by J. Carmignac, ‘The meaning of parthenos in Luke 1.27 - a reply to C. H. Dodd’, BT 28 (3, 1977) 327-30.

28. Metzger, TC, 129; Plummer, Luke, 22.

29. On the parallels and the usual form of annunciations and call narratives, cf. G.S. Prabhu, “‘Rejoice, Favored One!” Mary in the annunciation story of Luke’, Biblebhashyam 3 (4, 1977) 259-77; John McHugh, TheMother of Jesus in theNew Testament (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1975) 31-52. Pace Raymond Brown and K.P. Donfried, et al., eds. Mary in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978) 130-2; Marshall, Luke, 65. The view that χαιρε is the ordinary Greek greeting fails to explain why Luke portrays Mary as wondering what sort of greeting she had just received. The standard blessing formula ‘κύριος μετα σου is not likely to be intended as the source of the confusion.

30. Danker, Jesus, 11.

31. Cf. Plummer, Luke, 22; Raymond Brown, The Birth of theMessiah (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1977) 326-7; R. L. Humenay, ‘The place of Mary in Luke: a look at modern biblical criticism’, AER 5 (1974) 291-303. The phrase ε’υρες γαρ χάριν παρα τω θεω is equivalent to a common OT phrase (Gen 6.8; Judg 6.17; 1 Sam 1.18; 2 Sam 15.25) and as such signifies the free, gracious choice of God, rather than human acceptability. Cf. Marshall, Luke, 66. Pace McHugh, Mother of Jesus, 48.

32. Luke does not say specifically that Mary names Him (cf. 2.21). Cf. Gen 16.11, 30.11; Judg 13.24; I Sam 1.20; Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 289. Here it should be noted that God through the angel gives the name; thus, Mary and/or Joseph are instructed what to call Him.

33. Brown, ed., Mary in the NT, 114-5, nn.244-5.

34. Cf. M. Zerwick, ‘... quoniam virum non cognosco (Lc I, 34)’, VD 37 (1959) 212-24, 276-88, esp. 286-8.

35. In any case, to say ‘I have had no relations’, and ‘I know no man immediately’, are virtually equivalent. Cf. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 289; Danker, Jesus, 12, on Gen 19.8, Judg 11.30, and our text. Cf. H. Guy, ‘The virgin birth in St Luke’, ET 68 (1957) 157-8.

36. Note the connection between ‘handmaiden’ in Luke 1.38 and Acts 2.18; cf. Brown, ed., Mary in the NT, 137.

37. Cf. Plummer, Luke, 24; Creed, Luke, 20; S. Schulz, ‘’επισκιάξω’, TDNT7 (1971) 400, thinks divine generation is meant, but admits that this word is never used as a euphemism for sexual relations.

38. So LSJ, 657; cf. BAG, 298; Psa 91.4, 141.8.

39. McHugh, Mother of Jesus, 132 -3.

40. We do not have mere resignation here. Cf. Marshall, Luke, 72: ‘γένοιτό μοι... a wish expressed by the optative’ (i.e., ‘may it be to me’). Also, McHugh, Mother of Jesus, 64-7.

41. Plummer, Luke, 25; cf. Luke 12.49-53, 14.25-27.

42. Danker, Jesus, 13.

43. Note how Luke maintains his focus on Mary rather than Joseph by important passing remarks (2.19, 51).

44. The ‘ότι clause which follows is in all likelihood causal and thus the focus is on the ground of Mary’s blessedness, i.e, her faith, not the content of that faith. Cf. Creed, Luke, 22; but cf. Marshall, Luke, 82 and Acts 27.25.

45. Brown, ed., Mary in the NT, 136 n.302.

46. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 333, is correct that ε’υλογημένος here has a comparative, not a superlative, value. Cf. Judg 5.24.

47. Cf. Danker, Jesus, 15; Creed, Luke, 22-4.

48. Ellis, Luke, 75.

49. Cf. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 350-5.

50. Creed, Luke, 303-4; Plummer, Luke, 30-1.

51 Cf. M. Luther, ‘The Magnificat’, Luther’s Works, vol.21 (ed. J. Pelikan; St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956) 321.

52. Cf. J. T. Forestell, ‘Old Testament background of the Magnificat’, MS 12 (1961) 205-44; A. Richardson, An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament (London: SCM, 1958) 176-8.

53. W. Grundmann, ‘ταπεινός’, TDNT 8 (1972) 21.

54. Cf. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 349.

55. Ibid., 252, 342.

56. On the male- female parallelism in the Lukan infancy narrative in particular, cf. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 248-53.

57. One should be careful not to make too much of this act since Elizabeth calls her son by the name the angel gave her. The naming ritual is an important rite of exercising authority by a Jewish parent, but in this case the woman is merely passing on the name the angel had given.

58. Cf. P. Benoit, ‘L’Enfance de Jean-Baptiste salon Luc I’, NTS 3 (1956-57) 194.

59. The text does not say that Mary was of the line of David, though several mss. try to insert such an idea. Cf. Plummer, Luke, 53; Creed, Luke, 33.

60. Cf. Str-B II, 124-6; Marshall, Luke, 118.

61. ο‘ι γονεις; (Luke 2.27) is the natural term for Luke to use of Mary and Joseph without resorting to circumlocution. As Marshall, Luke, l l9, says, ‘... it is hypercritical to find here a tradition that did not know of the virgin birth’. Pace Brown, ed., Mary in the NT, 144, n.320 and 158, n.356. Cf. Luke 2.5, 27, 33, 41, 48.

62. Cf. Brown, Birth of theMessiah, 462-3, who enumerates most of the well-known views. Also, P. Benoit, ‘“Et toi-même un glaive transpercera l’âme!” (Luc 2, 35)’, CBQ 25 (3, 1963) 251-61.

63. So Marshall, Luke, 123. The key to a proper interpretation here would seem to be found by asking what negative factor affected both Jesus and Mary causing them anguish. The answer would be: the rejection of Jesus by most of Israel (He was the sign spoken against).

64. Anguish, doubt, sorrow, or suffering are not what the sword represents; they are the results of the sword’s work (cf. Ezek 14.17). The rejection of Jesus, not Mary’s reaction to her son’s rejection, is what the sword represents. Cf. McHugh, Mother of Jesus, 106-12.

65. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 446, 466.

66. Cf. Creed, Luke, 43; Marshall, Luke, 124; Str-B II, 141.

67. So G. Stählin, χήρα’, TDNT 9 (1974) 451, states: ‘She is a prophet and is thus granted to see the child Jesus (v.38). She is a witness, and is as such a model of the full-scale witness of the woman in the Christian community. She is unwearying in prayer ... And in virtue of her witness and prayer she stays continually in the temple, cf. v.49. In this regard, too, this prophetess is a model for the first community of disciples, Lk 24:53, Ac 2:46.’

68. Who was also devout, did not remarry, and lived to approximately the same age (105). Cf. Judith 16.23: Danker, Jesus, 36.

69. Marshall, Luke, 115.

70. Plummer, Luke, 71.

71. Luke stresses that Mary and Joseph are good Jews; cf. 2.21, 22, 23-24, 39. As Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 327, notes, ‘... if the birth were conceived as miraculous, no purification should have been needed’. Apparently, Joseph and Mary did not see the birth as other than normal, and thus the διανοιγον μήτρανof Luke 2.23 is fatal to the view that Mary gave birth to Jesus with the preservation of her virginity. So Plummer, Luke, 65; Creed, Luke, 39; Brown, ed., Mary in the NT, 153, n.344.

72. Brown, ed., Mary in the NT, 150-1.

73. Ibid., 161-2.

74. It has been suggested that by having Mary as the spokeswoman for the family, Luke prepares the reader for the eclipse of Joseph who will not appear again in Luke-Acts except at Luke 3.23. Cf. Brown, ed., Mary in the NT, 160.

75. Brown, ed., Mary in the NT, 161, n.367. Note also that Jesus’ reproach is directed to both Joseph and Mary (α’υτούς, 2.49); Mary is not singled out for rebuke.

76. Cf. Danker, Jesus, 29.

77. We have an elliptical sentence and there is no need to include Damaris in the list of male converts. Cf. F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954) 341; Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles, A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971) 527; Kirsopp Lake and H. J. Cadbury, The Acts of theApostles, vol. 4 (London: Macmillan and Co., 1933) 120.

78. C. F. Purvey, ‘The theology and leadership of women in the New Testament’, Religion and Sexism, Images of Woman in the Jewish and Christian Tradition, (ed. R. R. Ruether; New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974) 117-49, here 145.

79. While some rabbis insisted that a woman is not to serve a meal to men or to eat with men, it is questionable whether or not the rabbis’ ruling applied to the serving of women (here widows) or to homes without servants or sons. Cf. Leonard Swidler, Women in Judaism: The Status of Women in Formative Judaism (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1976): Str-B I, 480, 882. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans had any scruples about women waiting on tables, though it was normally only a woman who was of the servant class whom they would expect to perform such a task in any but the poorest of homes. Cf. Cato’s list of a housekeeper’s duties in On Agriculture, 143, LCL (1934) 124-5.

80. Cf. Witherington, Women, 100ff.

81. In Jewish circles the term was bestowed on benefactresses or was simply an honorary title. So far as I know, a Jewess never had a synagogue in her own home, and in this respect she differed from her Christian counterparts. My use of the term of John Mark’s mother and Lydia not only includes the idea of benefactress, but also the idea of being a house mother to a church. Cf. O. Michel, ‘ο’ικος’,TDNT 5 (1967) 130.

82. This is carefully detailed by H.J. Cadbury, ‘Lexical notes on Luke-Acts, III - Luke’s interest in lodging’, JBL 45 (1926) 305-22. Cf. the following examples which involve or turn on matters of hospitality or lodging: Luke 7.36-50, 10.38-42, 19.1-10, 16.19-31, 14.7-14, 10.25-34, 16.1-13, 24.29-30, 13.36-43; Acts 1.13, 12.12-17, 2.46, 21.8, 21.16, 28.7, 17.5-9, 9.11, 10.5-6, etc.

83. D. W. Riddle, ‘Early Christian hospitality: a factor in the gospel transmission’, JBL 57 (1938) 141-54.

84. Ibid., 152.

85. There are intimations elsewhere in the NT that women played an important part in the establishment or maintenance of house churches. Cf. Rom 16.3-5; 1 Cor 16.19; and possibly Col 4.15. The elect lady of 2 John may be Lady Eclecta who has a church in her house, but v.13 probably militates against this suggestion.

86. Though παιδίσκη is literally a diminutive of girl, in the NT it is always used of someone of servant class. Cf. BAG, 609; Matt 26.69; Mark 14.66, 69; Luke 22.56; Acts 16.16, and espec. John 18.17. Contra H. Burton, ‘The house of Mary’, Exp 2nd ser 1 (1881) 313-18.

87. Burton, ‘The house of Mary’, 317- 18, suggests this is an all-female prayer meeting but the gender of ‘ικανοί probably rules this out. If ‘the brethren’ means the Twelve, then Peter’s words do not imply this is an all-female meeting.

88. Ibid., 316.

89. A. Oepke, ‘γυνή’, TDNT 1 (1964) 785, notes that this text indicates women’s full membership in the early Christian community.

90. T. F. Torrance, ‘St Paul at Philippi: three startling conversions. Acts 16:6-40’, EvQ 13 (1941) 62-74.

91. Y. Redalié, ‘Conversion ou liberation? Notes sur Actes 16, 11 -40’, Bulletin du Centre Protestant d’Études 26 (7, 1974) 7-17.

92. Cf. Homer, The Iliad 4.141 - 143, LCL (1924) 1: 162-3, who refers to this as a woman’s task. Cf. J. Hastings, ‘Women in the Acts of the Apostles’, ET4 (1892-93) 434-6.

93. Cf. W. D. Thomas, ‘The place of women in the church at Philippi’, ET 83 (1971-72) 117; Haenchen, Acts, 499.

94. Thus, Lydia is not seen as a full proselyte of Judaism. Cf. Bruce, Acts, 215; K.G. Kuhn, ‘προσήλυτος’, TDNT 6 (1968) 744.

95. Though παρεκάλεσεν here may mean ‘encourage’ or ‘invite’; in view of the repetition of the plea, it seems that ‘beg’ or ‘plead’ is a more likely translation. Cf. BAG, 622; A-S, 340; At 16.40 the same word means ‘encourage’, but the context is different.

96. Whether she is portrayed as unmarried or widowed, it would be scandalous in Jewish circles for Paul to stay with Lydia. W.M. Ramsay, ‘The denials of Peter - section III: the house in the New Testament’, ET 27 (1915-16) 471-2, suggests that Lydia was able to entertain men without violating local custom because her house was large enough to allow the men to have one section to themselves.

97. There is evidence that women continued to be prominent in the Philippian church after Paul’s time. Cf. Thomas, ‘Place of women’, l l9-20, on Polycarp.

98. Cf. J. Daniélou, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church (Leighton Buzzard, England: Faith, 1974) 20; R. Gryson, Le ministère des femmes dans l’Église ancienne (Gembloux; Duculot, 1972) 19-33; G. G. Blum, ‘pas Amt der Frau im Neuen Testament’, NovT 7 (1964) 142-61, concentrating especially on the Pauline corpus. H.W. Beyer, ‘διάκονος’, TDNT 2 (1964) 93, says, ‘It is indisputable, however, that an order of deaconesses did quickly arise in the Church. A particular part was played here by widows who, on the strength of their chaste conduct on the one side and their loving service on the other, already received official recognition in 1 Tim 5.3ff.’

99. This probably indicates that Luke’s audience was not Aramaic speaking. Dorcas or Tabitha means ‘gazelle’. Cf. Lake and Cadbury, Acts IV, 109-10; BAG, 810; MM, 169, 624. Does this name indicate that Luke portrays this woman as originally a slave or freed woman? Cf. Lake and Cadbury, Acts IV, 110.

100. Cf. Haenchen, Acts, 339, n. 1; Bruce, Acts, 212; K. H. Rengstorf, ‘μαθήτρια’, TDNT 4 (1967) 460-1. J. Viteau, ‘L’institution des diacres et des veuves - Actes vi.l-10, viii.4-40, xxi.8’, RHE22 (1926) 513-37, argues that Tabitha’s being called disciple indicates Luke portrays her as having had formal instruction in Christian religion, perhaps in preparation for being a ‘spiritual widow’. That Luke calls Tabitha a disciple indicates he had no difficulties in calling women Christians and thus it is unlikely that Luke is trying to exclude the widows from the group of believers in 8.41. Cf. Acts 9.41. The phrase τους ‘αγίους και τας χήρας on the surface might imply that the widows were not among the saints (Christians). Alternatively, if there was a semi-official order of widows at this time, then χήρα may be a technical term for a certain group within the community who had duties involving funeral preparations and mourning (cf. v. 39). G. Stählin, χήρα, TDNT9 (1974) 451, n. 107, and 452, n. 108 (cf. n. 144), mentions the possibility that we do have an order of widows here and this is why they are mentioned.

101. Cf. Barclay M. Newman, and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on the Acts of the Apostles (London: United Bible Societies, 1972) 200; Bruce, Acts, 212; G. Delling πλήρης’, TDNT 6) (1968) 286, objects to the translation ‘full of good works’, but at least in English it is an accurate idiomatic way of saying ‘continually involved in doing good’.

102. ’ελεημοσυνων ων ’εποίει refers to Tabitha’s donations. Haenchen, Acts, 339, says it is added to forestall the idea that Tabitha had received good works. In the NT this phrase always refers to benevolent activity to the poor or needy. Cf. R. Bultmann’ ‘’ελεημοσύνη’, TDNT 2 (1964) 486.

103. Cf. M. Shabbath 23.5, Danby, 120.

104. For the view that she is part of an order of widows, cf. Viteau, ‘L’institution des diacres’, 532-3; Purvey, ‘Theology and leadership’, 145.

105. Thus Tabitha probably is not the Tabitha referred to in the ‘Historia Josephi’. Cf. E. Nestle, ‘Schila et Tabitha’, ZNW 11 (1910) 240; W.E. Cram, ‘Schila und Tabitha’, ZNW 12 (1911) 352. Also, though Tabitha was perhaps a widow, she probably was not part of an order of widows, for her deeds seem to be more in line with a diaconal ministry, though perhaps our knowledge on this subject is too meagre to permit such a distinction. Cf. Richard B. Rackham, TheActs of the Apostles, An Exposition (Westminster Commentaries; 10th ed.; London: Methuen and Co., 1925) 145, and n.4. It should be noted that the good deeds of the widows in 1 Tim 5.10 belong to the widows’ past, and that 1 Tim 2.10 indicates that good deeds were not the task of widows alone. Probably 1 Tim 5.10 is a general description, not a list of widow’s official functions.

106. By my count, there are eighty-five or more references to prophets and prophesying in Luke-Acts, evenly distributed between the two volumes (approximately forty-two in Luke, and forty-three or -five in Acts).

107. Cf. E. E. Ellis, ‘The role of the Christian prophet in Acts’, Apostolic History and the Gospel (ed. W. Ward Gasque and R. P. Martin; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) 55-ó.

108. Ibid.

109. Ibid., 56, 62. It should be noted that Luke says προφητεύουσαι, not ‘they prophesied about this or that’. He thus is referring to their functions in general, not to a particular prophecy for which they were noted. It was this which was distinctive about their ongoing activities.

110. So Viteau, ‘L’institution des diacres’, 523. Such an order of virgins or spiritual widows appears to have existed at least by the early decades of the second century. Cf. Ignatius, Smyrnaeans 13.1, The Apostolic Fathers, LCL (1912) 1:266-7.

111. Purvey, ‘Theology and leadership’, 145. παρθένοι may simply mean ‘unmarried’ with no technical sense at all, and it is possible that Luke mentions this because he thinks it is a good example for his audience to follow. Cf. G. Delling, ‘παρθένος’, TDNT5 (1967) 834, and n.52, to 1 Cor 7.5. Cf. Newman and Nida, Translator’s Acts, 405; BAG, 632; Lampe, PGL, 1037-40.

112. It is to be noted that in both examples of prophetesses in Luke-Acts (Anna, Philip’s daughters) there seems to be a relationship between abstinence from marriage and the gifts they have. Cf. G. Stählin, ‘χήρα’, TDNT 9 (1974) 451, n.98; contrast Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.30.1, 5.18.3-4, LCL (1926) 1.268-9, 486-7.

113. BAG, 708.

114. A. van Harnack, ‘Über die Beiden Rezensionen der Geschichte der Prisca und des Aquila in Act Apost. 18, 1-17’, Studien zur Geschichte des Neuen Testaments und der Alten Kirche (Berlin/ Leipzig: W. De Gruyter, 1931) 54-6.

115. BAG, 708; also, Bruce, Acts, 369; E.H. Plumptre, ‘Aquila and Priscilla’, Biblical Studies (E. H. Plumptre, ed.; London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden and Welch, 1885) 423.

116. Haenchen, Acts, 550; Sunday and Headlam, Romans, 418-20.

117. van Harnack, ‘Uber die Beiden Rezensionen’, 48 - 61.

118. Haenchen,Acts,533; n.4; cf. Plumptre, ‘Aquila andPriscilla’,421; Rackham, Acts, 324; C. S. C. Williams, A Commentary on theActs of the Apostles (London: A. and C. Black, 1957) 209.

l l9. Haenchen, Acts, 539; cf. J. Schneider, ‘προσέρχομαι’, TDNT2 (1964) 684; H. Conzelmann, History of Primitive Christianity (Nashville: Abingdon, 1973) 98-9; E. Schweizer, ‘Die Bekehrung des Apollos, Apg 18, 24-26’, Beiträge zur Theologie des Neuen Testaments - NeutestamentlicheAufsätze(1955-1970) (Zurich: Zwingli, 1970) 71-9.

120. W. Michaelis, ‘‘οδός’, DNT 5 (1967) 89-90; B.T.D. Smith, ‘Apollos and the Twelve Disciples at Ephesus’, JTS 16 (1914-15) 245-6; Haenchen, Acts, 551; Lake and Cadbury, Acts IV, 233; Williams, Acts, 216.

121. Lake and Cadbury, Acts IV, 233-4; BDF, sec. 244, p.127; MHT 1, 78, all agree that we likely have an elative here. The elative comparative is still a comparative implying that more complete information was given. Cf. Robertson, 665; BAG, 32.

122. Cf. G.B. Stevens, NPNF XI (1975) 245, n.2, commenting on Homily XL of John Chrysostom. On the basis of Chrysostom’s text of Acts 18.26 which possibly reads, ‘... πρισκιλλα προσελάβετο α’υτόν και ’ακριβέστερον α’ υτω ’εξέθεντο την ‘οδον του κυρίου’, F.W. Blass (‘Priscilla und Aquila’, TSK 74 [1901] 124-6) conjectured that the name Aquila originally may have been an interpolation at this point. Cf. R. Schumacher, ‘Aquila und Priscilla’, TCI 12 (1920) 97.

123. This is to read twentieth-century concerns back into the text.προσλαμβάνω seems to mean ‘to take aside’, or possibly ‘to take home’. Cf. BAG, 724; G. Delling, ‘προσλαμβάνω’,TDNT4 (1967) 15.

124. Stevens, NPNF XI (1975) 245. On Paul’s view of Priscilla and Aquila and their work, cf.E.A. Leonard, ‘St. Paul on the status of women’, CBQ 12 (1950) 311-20


Standard works

A-S G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament.
BAG W. Bauer, W. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.
BDF Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament.
CIG A. Boeckh, et al., eds. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum.
CIL Academiae Litterarum Regiae Borussicae, Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum.
Danby Herbert Danby, trans., The Mishnah.
DNTT Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology.
IDB G.A. Buttrick, ed.,Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible.
IDB Suppl. Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Supplement.
IG Academiae Litterarum Regiae Borussicae, Inscriptiones Graecae.
Lampe, PGL G. W. H. Lampe, ed., A Patristic Greek Lexicon.
LSJ H. G. Liddell and R. Scott, rev. H. S. Jones, A Greek English Lexicon.
Metzger, TC Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.
MHT J. H. Moulton, W. F. Howard, and N. Turner, A Grammar of NewTestament Greek.
MM James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament.
Moule, I-B C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek.
NTAp Edgar Hennecke, New Testament Apocrypha.
NTGNA E. Nestle and K. Aland, eds. Novum Testamentum Graece.
ODCC Oxford Dictionary of the Christian church.
PGrenf. B. P. Grenfell, ed., An Alexandrian Erotic Fragment and Other Greek Papyri, chiefly Ptolemaic.
POxy B. Grenfell, A.Hunt, et al., eds., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri.
PTeb B. Grenfell, et al., eds., The Tebtunis Papyri.
Robertson A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research.
SIG W. Dittenberger, ed., Sylloge lnscriptionum Graecarum.
Str-B Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud and Midrasch.
TDNT Gerhard Kittel and G. Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
UBSGNT Kurt Aland, et al., eds., The Greek New Testament (United Bible Society).
Wettstein Jacobus Wettstein, Novum Testamentum Graecum.
Zerwick Maximilian Zerwick, Biblical Greek.
Zerwick-Grosvenor Maximilian Zerwick and M. Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament.


BNTC Black's New Testament Commentary
BZNW Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft and die Kunde der älteren Kirche
Budé Paris: Société D'Éditions "Les Belles Lettres"
CGTC Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary
FRLANT Forschungen zur Religion and Literatur des Alten and Neuen Testaments
HGNT Handbuch zum Griechen Neuen Testament
HNT Handbuch zum Neuen Testament
HNTC Harper's New Testament Commentary
HTKNT Herder's Theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament
ICC International Critical Commentary
KEK Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament
LCL Loeb Classical Library
MNTC Moffatt New Testament Commentary
NCB New Century Bible
NICNT New International Commentary on the New Testament
NIGTC New International Greek Testament Commentary
NPNF Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers
NTD Das Neue Testament Deutsch
PNTC Pelican New Testament Commentary
SBLDS Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series
SBLMS Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series
SNTSMS Society of New Testament Studies Monograph Series
ThHK Theologischer Handkommentar
THKNT Theologischer Handkommentar zum Neuen Testament
TNTC Tyndale New Testament Commentary
UNT Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament


AER American Ecclesiastical Review
AJA American Journal of Archaeology
AJP American Journal of Philology
AJT American Journal of Theology
BA Biblical Archaeologist
BAR Biblical Archaeology Review
Be0 Biblia a Oriente
Bib Biblica
BibLeb Bibel and Leben
BJRL Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester
BR Biblical Research
BSac Bibliotheca Sacra
BT Bible Translator
BTB Biblical Theology Bulletin
BW Biblical World
BZ Biblische Zeitschrift
CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly
CBR Christian Brethren Review
CTJ Calvin Theological Journal
CTM Concordia Theological Monthly
EspV Esprit et Vie
ET Expository Times
Eglise et Theologie
ETL Ephemerides theologicae lovanienses
EvQ Evangelical Quarterly
Greg Gregorianum
HR History of Religions
HTR Harvard Theological Review
Int Interpretation
JAAR Journal of the American Academy of Religion
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature
JJS Journal of Jewish Studies
JHS Journal of Hellenic Studies
JETS Journal of Evangelical Theological Society
JR Juridical Review
JTNT Journal of the Theology of the New Testament
JTS Journal of Theological Studies
JTSA Journal of Theology for S. Africa
KG Kathologische Gedänke
LTQ Lexington Theological Quarterly

Lumen Vitae

MS Marian Studies
NTA New Testament Abstracts
NRT Nouvelle Revue Théologique
NTS New Testament Studies

Nova et Vetera

PalCler Palestra del Clero
RB Revue Biblique

Review and Expositor


Restoration Quarterly
RHE Revue d 'Histoire Ecclésiastique

Revue d'Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses

RJ Reformed Journal
RSPT Revue des Sciences phlosophiques et théologiques

Revue de l'Université d'Ottawa

SBL Society of Biblical Literature
SJT Scottish Theological Journal

Theologie and Glaube


Theologische Quartalschrift


Theologische Studien


Theologische Studien and Kritiken

TynB Tyndale Bulletin
TZ Theologische Zeitschrift
USQR Union Seminary Quarterly Review

Verbum Domini

WTJ Westminster Theological Journal
ZNW Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft

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