Conclusion to the Significance of Women in Luke

This post will finish up the series of “The Significance of Women in Luke.” This conclusion will remind us how Luke shows a model of faith, discipleship, and trust. Luke’s pairing style gave a great way of showing different responses that showed a poor or incorrect response contrasted with a correct or faithful response. The gospel of Luke reminds us that Christ came for all and salvation is available for all, yet many deny this gift.

A bibliography is provided at the end for a list of all resources that were used in this writing for any further research that a reader may want.


Conclusion

Luke shows how Jesus has done much to dignify and elevate women. “The news of His [Jesus] birth was shared with a Jewish maiden, His death was witnessed by grieving women, and the good news of His resurrection was announced first to a woman who had been demon-possessed.”[1] The women who followed Christ provide a model of true discipleship as they heard Jesus’ call, followed Him during His ministry and suffering, and gave faithful witness to His resurrection.[2] Luke is not merely about the discipleship of the women, but more importantly it appreciates their abilities and resources to focus on Christ to receive and act upon the Word of God in truth.[3] The theme of the women of Luke’s Gospel is the grand theme of the whole of the Scriptures: that after the “barrenness” of Israel and the world, a seed born of a woman would conquer sin and death, be resurrected from the barren womb of the grave, and provide grace, mercy, and life to all who believe in Him.[4] The Magnificat celebrates the reversal of existing social structures. The story of Mary and Martha reflects an opening for women into a rabbinic group that was against the custom of the day. The women during the crucifixion show what faithfulness looks like in the midst of suffering. Because of Luke, we can learn from Mary and Martha that while serving is good, it is best to be at Jesus’ feet hearing God’s word. Luke’s style of contrast between the male and female offer many examples of what true faith looks like through the suffering and oppression of the women. Luke reverses the social norms and elevates women to a level of dignity through the life of Jesus that was unseen of during those times.


[1] Warren Wiersbe, “Luke,” in The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996), 274.

[2] Rosalie, “The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke,” 59

[3] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 202.

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


Bibliography

Benson, Mary. “The Women of Luke’s Gospel.” Testimony Magazine. 2007. Accessed March 14, 2015. http://www.testimony-magazine.org/back/aug2007/benson1.pdf

Butler, T. C. Luke, vol. 3. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

D’Angelo, Mary Rose. “Women in Luke-Acts: A Redactional View.” Journal of Biblical Literature 109 (1990): 441-61, Accessed March 14, 2015.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/3267051.

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

Green, Joel B. The Theology of the Gospel of Luke. New York: Cambridge Press, 1995.

Guthrie, D. New Testament Introduction. 4th ed. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996.

Henry, Matthew. “Luke.” In Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.

Johnson, Luke. “The Gospel of Luke.” Sacra Pagina, vol. 3. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991.

Kopas, Jane. “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel.” Theology Today 43 (1986): 192-202.

Maly, Eugene H. “Women and the Gospel of Luke.” Biblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology 10 (1980): 99-104.

Ryan, Rosalie. “The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke.” Biblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology 15 (1985): 56-59.

Sproul, R. C. A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke. Great Britain: Christian Focus, 1999.

Stein, R. H. Luke. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.

Wiersbe, Warren. “Luke.” In The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996.

Witherington III, Ben. Women in the Earliest Churches. New York: Cambridge Press, 1991.

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The Significance of Women in Luke: The Cross and Resurrection

The Women of the Crucifixion and Resurrection

As the Gospel draws near to the final events in Jesus’ life on earth, Luke sets the stage for true spirituality and discipleship. The first encounter comes when Peter is questioned by a servant woman who recognizes him as a follower of Jesus (22:55-58). She had nothing to lose and was not a disciple of Christ, yet it is her truthfulness compared to Peter’s denials that foreshadows the fateful final hours. It was not Peter or the other disciples who responded in truth, but it is the women who appear in the remainder of the Gospel who show true faith.[1]

The next encounter is with the women who lament Jesus’ suffering (23:28-31). Christ tells them that their mourning should be over the failure of the people to recognize the gift of God. These women weep for themselves and their children as keepers of the vision, but in this moment they must face the truth in the darkness of the crucifixion.[2]

Instead of Luke focusing on the women standing under the cross as depicted elsewhere, Luke notes that they followed behind the body to see where Jesus was laid (23:55-56). Their role as the first to receive the news of the resurrection (24:9-11) is more significant. Unlike the other three Gospels, Luke does not record that it was a woman who first saw the resurrected Christ.[3] However, the women are the first to receive the message of the resurrection, and to act as disciples to spread the good news to the others, even though the apostles did not believe them.[4] Of particular note, when the angels speak to the women, the angel tells the women to “remember” what Jesus told them. Most of Jesus’ sayings about death and suffering were in private to His disciples (9:22, 43-45; 17:25; 18:31-34), therefore indicating the women were also being instructed by Jesus.[5]

Since Luke involves many women in the birth and surrounding events of Christ, it is appropriate that women were at His death, and the first to see His resurrection from the womb of the grave.[6] The faithfulness of the women who followed Jesus was rewarded with joy on the resurrection morning. Luke makes special mention of the women that followed (23:40) and remained faithfully standing by during the crucifixion and did not leave, unlike the multitudes that left and the disciples that abandoned Jesus.[7]


[1] Ibid, 201.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Rosalie, “The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke,” 59.

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

[7] Rosalie, “The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke,”58.

Significance of Women in Luke: Seeing Through Eyes of Faith

As we continue the study on the significance of women in Luke, we start nearing toward the end of the book and prepare for the crucifixion narrative. Before we get to the crucifixion though, a few key stories appear that requires our attention. Luke continues to use the pairing style to compare and contrasts different responses. We see more stories involving widows and continue to see what faithful discipleship looks like. 

I would like to make a short comment on one thing before we get to the main post. There are many in the feminist theology camp that picks up the parable of the woman and the lost coin to support their view on the appropriateness of calling God the Father a “She” or “Mother” among other names. This paper does not deal with feminist theology nor does it go into great depths about this particular verse. There is not time nor space to go deeper into this subject. I would recommend further study on this topic from sources that have studied and researched it far greater than I have. This paper again just looks at how Luke emphasized women in his gospel and how that was counter-cultural to that day and the typical customs.


A Proper View of God Elicits a Faithful Response

The three parables of mercy, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son each reflect how God seeks the unbelieving and acts as a Shepherd to those who believe in Him. The woman who searches for the lost coin and rejoices with others when it is found is no less an image of God than the shepherd who seeks the lost sheep.[1] Moreover, Jesus chooses to single out a widow as an example of generosity in giving (21:1-4).[2]

In the pairing of women and men in the description of the last things (17:34-37), Luke stresses that both men and women are to take responsibility for oneself in being prepared. This is followed up by another story on responsibility in the persistent widow (18:1-8), which succeeds better than any other story in uniting the themes of equality and oppression.[3] The story of her speaking up for herself to be recognized as a human shows that God will see justice done to those who cry out to him.[4]

This discussion is followed up by a contrast between the pious Pharisee who publicly displays his religion (18:9-14) and a poor widow who exemplifies true faith when she contributes the two coins (21:1-4). Like the persistent widow, this widow understands what constitutes her dignity.[5] Compared to the Pharisee, the widow provides an authentic expression of faith and worship.


 

[1] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 500.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 199-200.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 200.

The Significance of Women in Luke: The Curing Pairs

Today, we will look at the pairs of curing that occurred in Luke 4 and 7. As mentioned in the previous posts, Luke uses the “pairing” style to contrast different responses oftentimes between men and women. This pairing style shows the reader a more faithful response. The theme of barrenness also comes back up and will show up a few more times in the rest of the book.

Pairs of Curing

As soon as Luke presents the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he introduces a pair of cures (4:33-39). First, the man was cured of the demons: Luke notes the effect that the cure had on the belief of those who witness it. Yet, when the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law follows, the effect is vastly different as she immediately rises and waits on the disciples. She evidences true discipleship. The impact of this pair is seen on the reader as Luke displays sincere gratitude gives rise to action, and that action is a way of returning the gift.[1]

Luke tells another set of stories about cures that expand compassion beyond physical curing to an extension of attitude toward those in need (7:1-17). Jesus exhibits grace and heals the centurion’s servant, who is not a member of the Jewish community. This is followed by Jesus meeting the widow of Nain, who represents a group that is among the most oppressed and neglected of society.[2] She does not speak or act, but is now “barren” with the death of her son. We see that the oppressed and needy evoke a compassionate response from Jesus as He brings her son back to life.[3]

Another pair is found in Luke 7:36-50 where Luke contrasts the attitude of the repentant woman who anointed Jesus with the attitude of the Pharisee at whose house Jesus dined. The Pharisee sees himself as righteous, and she sees herself as unworthy. The object of the contrast is not to celebrate unworthiness, but to show the relationship between forgiveness, gratitude, and love.[4] The gratitude and repentance she displays transcends the fear of appearing foolish or self-conscious. This gives her spiritual freedom that characterizes discipleship and expresses through her actions what cannot be adequately expressed through words.[5]

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

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 196.

[5] Ibid.

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,  http://www.testimony-magazine.org/back/aug2007/benson1.pdf

[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.

The Significance of Women in Luke: A Radical Reversal

Following the introductory post about why Luke seemed to have a greater number of stories about women than the other Gospel writers, today we look at the reasons why Luke may have been more open to speaking about women. Because Luke focuses on Jesus bringing salvation to more than just the Jews, as well as his prior education, we can start putting the pieces together with how his inspired narrative is formed. Today, we will see how Jesus changed society and the impact that had.

A Radical Reversal

Luke’s purpose was to show how God had turned society upside down when Jesus entered the world and displayed great love.[1] “Luke, both as an educated Gentile and as a physician, would naturally have a more open mind and heart to the socially deprived peoples of his day.”[2] Thus, it is not surprising that women are prominent in his Gospel. Throughout his narrative, the theme of reversal is seen with the positive attention given to women and the inclusion of the Samaritans and Gentiles.[3]

Luke’s portrayal of Mary, Jesus’ mother, is emblematic of how God reverses the misfortunes of the human condition. Mary’s Magnificat (1:46-50) exemplifies Luke’s new way of interpreting society that occurred through the entering of Christ into this world. The Magnificat, which resembles Hannah’s hymn (1 Sam 2:1-10), celebrates the reversal of human values and this form of justice to which the Sermon on Mount speaks.[4] In Mary’s song of praise, she echo’s Elizabeth’s prophecy showing that she and Elizabeth (1:41) are both filled with the Holy Spirit.[5] The Magnificat (1:46-56) displays a hymn of human solidarity both with others who have cried for deliverance and with the compassionate God.[6] Luke 23:5 displays how Jesus treated the minorities differently. He welcomed and admitted these peoples, particularly women, into his group which was unheard of in rabbinic circles.[7] This is further displayed in the story of Mary and Martha (10:38-42) where Jesus accepts Mary into His “rabbinical circle” as she listens to His words.

The cure of the crippled woman on the Sabbath (13:10-17), which can be paired with the Sabbath cure of the man with dropsy (14:1-6), reflects multiple significant reversal concepts. Jesus not only cures on the Sabbath, but He cures a woman on the Sabbath all to the dismay of an official; this is a double conflict that is only found in Luke. Then, Jesus refers to her as a daughter of Abraham, thus indicating participation in the religious life of Israel that was unimaginable.[8]

These stories then seem to show that while Jesus and in this case Luke do not outright condemn the social structures, they did go beyond those walls so that women could enjoy His ministry.[9] Since Jesus was radically changing society and relationships in society, Luke’s writing style must be examined along with these passages on women.

[1] Maly, “Women and the Gospel of Luke,” 99.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Luke Johnson, “The Gospel of Luke,” in Sacra Pagina, vol 3 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991), 22.

[4] Maly, “Women and the Gospel of Luke,” 102.

[5] Matthew Henry, “Luke,” in Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1825.

[6] Jane Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” Theology Today 43 (1986): 193.

[7] Maly, “Women and the Gospel of Luke,” 102.

[8] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 199.

[9] Maly, “Women and the Gospel of Luke,” 104.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WOMEN IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, pt 1

Moving from the studies of the Trinity now to focusing mainly on the Gospels, we start off this new series by looking at the Gospel of Luke.

Even though the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) report many of the same events and episodes in Jesus’ life, one would expect many similarities as well. However, each writer focuses on their own distinct emphasis and points of interests. Luke’s major characteristic themes include:

  1. universality, recognition of Gentiles as well as Jews in God’s plan (19:10);
  2. emphasis on prayer, especially Jesus’ praying before important occasions (3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29; 10:21; 11:1; 22:39-46; 23:34, 46);
  3. prominent place given to women (chs. 1, 2; 7:11-13, 36-50; 8:1-3; 10:38-42; 21:1-4; 23:27-31, 49; 23:55–24:11);
  4. special interest in poverty and wealth (1:52-53; 4:16-22; 6:20, 24-25; 12:13-21; 14:12-13; 19:19-31) [some of the rich were included among Jesus’ followers, but he seemed closest to the poor];
  5. concern for individuals, especially “sinners” (good Samaritan, 10:29-37; prodigal son, 15:11-32; thankful leper, 17:11-19; penitent tax collector, 18:9-14; Zacchaeus, 19:1-10; penitent thief, 23:39-43) [Jesus was a friend to those deep in sin];
  6. stress on the family circle (Jesus’ activity included men, women and children, with the setting frequently in the home);
  7. repeated use of the title “Son of Man” (e.g., 19:10);
  8. emphasis on joy (e.g., 1:14) and the Holy Spirit (e.g., 4:1).

From these themes, we see that it is important for Luke to discuss the significance of minorities and the forgotten of that period. From his background in the Greek culture, he had more exposure to the changing cultural attitudes of the day.

So what this post and the next few posts will focus on is how Luke gives women a prominent place in the inspired Gospel and possible reasons why. Luke includes many details in his writing that the other gospels do not, and some of those bring women into the mix. With this gospel, Luke is able to show the Jesus did not just come for a few, but for all. Instead of just taking the claim that Luke gave women a special role, let us look at the book of Luke and go through it carefully, examining every mention of a woman and how that fits in the overall theme of the book, which is Jesus (The Son of Man to use Luke’s words) brings salvation to all.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WOMEN IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

The Gospel of Luke has often been regarded as sympathetic to women, as it provides more passages about women than any other Gospel, including 23 unique stories. Without the inspired writings of Luke, we would not know about the miraculous conception of Elizabeth, the prophetess Anna, Mary’s Magnificat, the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with her tears and costly oil, and of the women who accompanied Jesus in his travels and supported his ministry. The inspired writings of Luke describe the prominence of women in Christ’s ministry as he consistently portrays them as true examples of faith in spite of a culture that minimized women. Luke’s Gospel most importantly describes the significant roles women play from the very beginning of Jesus’ life and ministry.[1] The Gospel reveals Christ’s perfect love and tender compassion towards all women especially towards the suffering. The significance of women in the Gospel of Luke is demonstrated by the writer showcasing women’s faith and service and how Jesus reversed the societal norms by proclaiming a gospel of equality and inclusion. This paper will examine why Luke concentrates on women more than the other gospel writers, his possible motivation, his “pairing” writing style, and will examine individual passages.

Women and the Gospel of Luke

The author of Luke does increase the number of stories about the women in the Gospel, and that increase seems to be a deliberate choice.[2] It is significant that Luke pays so much attention to women in a culture dominated with focus on men. Luke mentions thirteen women not spoken of elsewhere in the Gospels, including two who formed the subject of parables. Luke, as a Gentile, would know much of the degradation of women and would be concerned to emphasize all he had heard of the attitude of the Lord towards them.[3] Luke’s Gospel begins and ends with the focus on women and their part in the story.[4] Luke focuses on women from the very beginning of Jesus’ life by pointing to Mary, not Joseph, who praised God with the birth announcement (Luke 1:46-55). Both Elizabeth (1:41-45) and Anna (2:36-38) also praised and blessed the Lord. There are many women in the Gospel, and there seems to be tendency for Luke to defend and praise women.

[1] Eugene H. Maly, “Women and the Gospel of Luke,” Biblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology 10 (1980): 99.

[2] Mary Rose D’Angelo, “Women in Luke-Acts: A Redactional View,” Journal of Biblical Literature 109 (1990): 443, accessed March 14, 2015, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3267051.

[3] D. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 4th ed. (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 103-4.

[4] T. C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 132.