The Significance of Women in Luke: Luke’s Writing Style, pt 3

As we continue to look at Luke and how he emphasized women in his narrative, today we begin to see how his writing style was used to show the difference between a male response and a female response. As will be briefly discussed shortly, Luke uses a style called “pairing” that provides a unique comparison in different situations that the other writers do not use. In an effort to show this, we will start our analysis of Luke’s Gospel by first looking at the first two chapters of Luke and the birth narrative.

Luke: The Style of Pairing and Passage Analysis

Luke uses a unique writing style of “pairing” wherein he presents a number of linked pairs or groups of similar types of events or parables together.[1] A high proportion of these references are to male and female which is not always about comparison, but suggest a measure of equality that was unexpected in the time of Jesus.[2] Another unique aspect of Luke’s style is that he focuses on women who are exemplars of poorness and lowliness before God that finds expression in barrenness, widowhood, spiritual or actual neediness, or service to the poor.[3] In many of the pairing cases, the story about the man is traditional and the one about the woman is special to Luke.[4] Lucan “pairs” can be detected in almost every chapter of the Gospel.[5]

The Pregnancy and Birth Narrative

The first pairing example in Luke’s Gospel is found in the birth announcements made to Zechariah (Luke 1:5-23) and to Mary (1:26-38). This is one of several incidents that contrasts the male and female response. Mary’s questioning of the messenger is rooted in faith, where Zechariah’s is not.[6] In response, Zechariah is punished and Mary is blessed. It is Mary who provides a better example of true faith.

The miraculous conceptions and births from the closed wombs of Mary and Elizabeth described in Luke offer an interesting portrait. At the start of the Gospel, there are two women, one old, one young, both childless. The barrenness of Israel under the old law, as represented by Elizabeth, will be the last of the prophets that will herald in the Messiah.[7] It is compared to the virgin’s womb who brings the new law, the message of salvation and grace. This new covenant will afford women a greater role that is suggested by making Mary, not Joseph, the recipient of the angelic message.[8]

Mary’s subsequent encounter with Elizabeth (1:39-45), introduces another example of a distinctive contribution of women in Luke’s presentation. They both identify with the lowly and oppressed.[9] Elizabeth tells Mary she is blessed because she believed, and the two of them stand together as faithful listeners and hearers.[10] “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.”[11] They are not just witnesses, but active participants in God’s redeeming purposes. Elizabeth and Mary are the most prominent characters in the first two chapters of Luke, yet Elizabeth does not appear in the other Gospels.[12]

Another example of pairing in the dual examples of Simeon and Anna (2:25-38). Both are in the temple, both praise God, both give witness to the fulfillment of the promise, and both are shown to be faithful.[13] Anna, a barren widow who served God faithfully (2:37) and was eager to speak of the Lord Jesus and His redemption, is described as a prophetess. The fact that she is a prophetess and her testimony was valued just as much as Simeon’s shows Luke’s theme of equality.

The women of the pregnancy stories, Anna, Elizabeth, and Mary, are recognized in Luke as demonstrating patience, prayer, praise, and faith – marks of true discipleship.[14]


[1] Mary Benson, “The Women of Luke’s Gospel,” Testimony Magazine, 2007, accessed March 14, 2015,

[2] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 192.

[3] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 192.

[4] D’Angelo, “Women in Luke-Acts: A Redactional View,” 444.

[5] Ibid, 445-46,

[6] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 193.

[7] Benson, “The Women of Luke’s Gospel.”

[8] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 193.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ben Witherington III, Women in the Earliest Churches, (New York: Cambridge Press, 1991), 134.

[12] Benson, “The Women of Luke’s Gospel.”

[13] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 195.

[14] D’Angelo, “Women in Luke-Acts: A Redactional View,” 448.


One thought on “The Significance of Women in Luke: Luke’s Writing Style, pt 3

  1. Pingback: The Significance of Women in Luke: The Curing Pairs | Seeking Our God

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