Jesus Was a Feminist
Looking at mainstream Christianity today, few would guess that Jesus was a feminist.
Jesus’ life story is found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And there is no sexism in any of them.
Instead, Jesus recognized the worth and dignity of everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or class (feminism is concerned with all of these).
Jesus spoke to a woman?! Of an “inferior” race?!
For instance, one day Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman who was drawing water from a well. His apostles were shocked.
Why bother talking to a woman? They’re not worth the trouble.
And Samaritans are dirty, horrible people. Best keep your distance!
Merely talking to this woman acknowledged that both women, and people of a despised group, are worth talking to.
Jesus placed women and men on an equal plane
Under Jewish law women were not allowed to divorce their husbands. (The early Christians came out of Judaism and saw themselves as Jews.)
So Jesus said that men should not divorce either. A married couple should work together as helpmeets — coming together to support one another.
And under Jewish law men could have sex with single women without punishment (sex with a married woman constituted a sin against her husband). Women were only allowed to have sex with their husbands. But as men gathered stones to punish one adulteress, Jesus cautioned,
He who is without sin, let him cast a stone.
The men dropped their stones and walked away.
In Jesus’ time men could be students but a woman’s place was in the kitchen, cooking for men. But one day a woman named Mary sat among Jesus’ students (disciples). Her sister, Martha, asked him to tell Mary to get in the kitchen, where she belonged. But Jesus said Mary was doing something more important and should stay.
The most sacred anointing is performed by a woman
When Jesus was at the home of Simon the leper, a woman approached and poured an expensive ointment on his head. The disciples were indignant, and asked her to leave.
But Jesus quieted the crowd, saying that she was preparing him for burial.
The anointing of Jesus before he went to the cross is surely the most sacred ordinance ever performed in the Christian tradition.
Women were the first witnesses to the resurrection
The Bible says that the first witnesses to the resurrection were women, too. Jesus met two women disciples who had come to his tomb, and told them to tell the apostles that he had risen.
If you are a believer it’s pretty significant that Jesus first appeared to women after his crucifixion.
If you aren’t a believer, it’s still remarkable that anyone from biblical times would even consider the possibility of a woman being a witness. That just wasn’t done back then.
The Gnostic Movement
All of that feminism fermented a Gnostic movement, which was ripe with gender equality, including calling women to be prophets and leaders. And in 1945 papyrus scrolls, dating from the second to the fourth century, were discovered. These Gnostic Gospels included “The Book of Mary Magdalene.”
Female leaders of the church are acknowledged
All of the sexism in the New Testament comes from the Apostle Paul, who joined Christianity after Jesus had died. His letters (epistles) advising various congregations seem to be trying to mainstream the church. Like this one:
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church… so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands
Yet Paul also thanked 28 outstanding leaders, 1/3 of whom were women:
I commend Phoebe, a deacon of the church… Greet Andronicus and Junia… they are prominent among the apostles.”
Paul also says this,
In Christ, Jesus there is no Jew and no Gentile, No male and no female.
That’s because Jesus was a feminist, believing that we all hold equal worth and dignity.
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