a) Using Luke’s Gospel, describe Jesus’ response to women and why many First Century Jews would have disapproved.

Women in first century Palestine were not supposed to participate in public life. It was a husband’s right and duty to divorce his wife if she left the house without a headdress and her face hidden, not only this, but the husband was under no obligation to pay the money which the wife had a right to receive in the case of divorce.

In public women were not meant to be seen and it went against all policies of etiquette to speak to a woman in the street or exchange greetings and in fact even to look at a married woman was considered scandalous. Jewish women in first century Palestine had very limited legal and economic rights, particularly in the economically related areas. When a girl was in the household of her father, any work she did and wages she earned would go directly to her father. Once she was married a woman’s wages and products that she made would go into the possession of her husband.

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While in her father’s house, however, a girl’s education consisted of learning domestic arts such as weaving and needlework, she would also carry other responsibilities such as looking after any brothers and sisters. A girl’s duty to her father was the same as was that of her brother, but she possessed none of her brother’s rights. All inheritance would pass to the son and his descendants before anything would pass to his daughter. A father could marry his daughter to anyone he liked until she came to the age of twelve, she had no right to protest. He could even sell his daughter into slavery, which was often done, as this would be of profit to him. But after the age of twelve the girl would become independent and the father would have no right to betrothe her against her will.

A woman didn’t have the right to divorce her husband, but he could divorce her. However, there were exceptions. If her husband beat her, followed a despised trade such as tanning or dung collecting or refused to have sexual intercourse with her, a woman had the right to divorce her husband. The rules could also be bent. If a woman wished to free herself of an intolerable marriage, she could do so while still keeping her property rights protected. There was a procedure that a woman could bring a divorce suit to court and as a result, the husband could be compelled to divorce her. This way, the law was still being obeyed, yet the situation was still fair. If a man’s trade caused him to smell badly, he was also obliged to release his wife from the marriage if she wished, via the same procedure as mentioned above. If a husband divorced his wife, he had every right to claim their children as well.

As we can see from the above, women were considered second-class citizens, akin to slaves. The fact that they are mentioned as enthusiastic followers of Jesus is, in fact unusual. Both the fact that they would have been allowed to follow Jesus with his disciples, and that the authors of Jesus’ biographies mentioned the presence of women at all is surprising.

Jesus paid particular attention to outcasts, such as servants, the ‘unclean’, women and other individuals on the fringes of society. During a part of his ministry Jesus was accompanied by a group of women: Mark 15: ’40Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.’

Another important thing that has been noted about Jesus’ attitude toward women is that he taught them both the meaning of the Scriptures and religious truths in general. Despite the fact that in Judaism it was considered improper, and even “obscene,” to teach women the Scriptures, in fact, even for a scholar to converse with a woman in the street was considered obscene. By teaching women, Jesus was deliberately breaking a custom, which was disliked by many women.

This would have greatly shocked all Jews in the times of first century Palestine. Moreover, women became followers of Jesus as we see in Luke 8: ‘1After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.’ As we can see, Jesus was followed round by women just as he was by male disciples, which is surprising as we have already seen, it was frowned upon even for a woman to leave the household.

Not only did Jesus break Jewish laws by teaching and talking to women, but he went even further. He allowed women to touch him, even women who were considered “unclean” by the society: Jesus allowed a sick woman suffering of haemorrhage for twelve years touch him. He also touched a dead woman, the daughter of a synagogue ruler, and brought her back to life. (Luke 8: 40-56), He also allowed a prostitute (Mary Magdalene) to touch and wash his feet while dining with a disapproving religious Pharisee. (Luke 7: 36-50). As we can see from the above, Jesus was happy to talk to and mingle with women freely, unashamed to accept them into his circle of followers.

b) Explain the ways in which women may contribute to the life of the Christian Church today.

Women can contribute to the Church in many different ways. One option, is to teach children in a Sunday school. This contributes to the education of those younger than them, and involves passing on their knowledge. Or women could take care of children, running a cr�che for them while parents are attending a service. Something done in some Churches is that during the readings, children are taken out and the readings are presented to them in a friendlier way, involving play and activities. This contributes greatly, as it makes children more aware of their religion and more interested in it. This will, in turn contribute to the faith and knowledge of future generations.

If women wish to be more involved with the parish in general rather than the entertainment and education of children, there is a position in the Anglican Church called ‘lay reader’ which can be taken by a women. She can then help with the running of the parish and preach sermons.

Women can act as ‘Welcomers’, welcoming people into the Church; or can help with the planning of the liturgy. Women can be Eucharistic ministers and participate in the distribution of communion during mass. As Eucharistic ministers, they can also take communion to the sick of the parish that are unable to attend the mass. Even if they are not Eucharistic ministers, women can perform a duty called ‘pastoral visiting’ which entails visiting the sick or grieved and talking to them to give them comfort and reassurance. This is often quite an unofficial duty, but is certainly a great contribution to the Church as it provides encouragement to people of the parish and helps support their faith.

Another path a woman can take to support the Church is chaplaincy. By becoming a chaplain she contributes to the faith of those outside her parish. She could be a chaplain of a school, a university, a hospital and many other places. Chaplaincy includes the helping of others who are in need of comfort or advice, as a chaplain a woman can offer her help to those in need of it. In hospitals she can support both the patient and their family, providing support and encouragement during difficult times, helping to guide them through from uncertainty to understanding. In fact, this applies to all places where a chaplain can be found in a school a chaplain can give advice to help relieve the pressure off students struggling with too much work or imminent exams or even family matters. As a chaplain, a woman can pay attention to people of all religions and denominations, in the name of her Church.

Women can help to arrange fundraising events for the Church. By doing this, they are helping the people of their parish to unite in their concern for those less fortunate than them and in doing whatever they can to help others.

A woman could contribute to the Church in even the smallest ways, by helping clean up, flower arranging, singing in the choir, playing the organ, bell ringing or just praying during masses and services.

By doing any of the above, a woman will be making a contribution to her Church by making it a more whole and friendly environment, and calling people to prayer.

If women are completely devoted to their Church, and wish to dedicate their life to serving it, they can become a nun. Whether apostolic (going out into the world to help others in the name of God) or contemplative (remaining in a monastery, contemplating and praying for the poor and needy), nuns do a great deal for their Church. By becoming a nun, a woman is dedicating her life to the Church and its doings. Nuns help a great deal in creating new followers of Christianity and uniting the community.

In the Anglican Church, a woman can become priest, this contributes to the Church by preaching and spreading the word and taking masses and therefore carrying out Jesus’ commandments.

As can be seen from the above, women can do many things to contribute to the life of the Christian Church today. There are many more, perhaps more indirect ways of contributing to the Church which I have not mentioned, so there is plenty of scope for women to contribute to their community, even if it is in the tiniest way, it will still mean a lot and be of significance.


‘Jesus appointed only men to succeed him therefore women should be excluded from priesthood’.

Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you have thought of different points of view. You must refer to Christianity in your answer.

Women and men are complimentary and are equal in every way. And they have different gifts and capabilities but are still equal in all respects. All humans should have equal rights to everything. Men are no better than women, they are just different. It should make no difference whether a man or a woman is ordained to priesthood, as they are equal in every respect and were created so by God.

Some may argue that Jesus had only appointed men as his disciples, however, If he had appointed women no one would have listened to him. I have described earlier the attitude to women in First Century Palestine, and they were considered akin to slaves, it would have been impossible for Jesus to be heard and listened to by the people if he had been surrounded by a flock of whom then were considered inferior beings.

If women believe they are able to become a priest, they should have every right to, just as any man. If a man believes he has a vocation, he can be ordained as a priest, so why shouldn’t it be the same for women. If God is calling on a woman to become a priest, surely it is foolish to deny her her wish. Gender should make no difference. We wouldn’t hesitate to allow a woman to become an engineer today if she was good at it, even though it is generally a male-dominated job, why should it be any different for priesthood?

The Anglican Church allowed woman priests and this was received well. Women have proved that they can be excellent priests, better than many men, so why shouldn’t they be able to be priests in different branches of the Christian Church. Surely, the Church wouldn’t force a woman to alter her religion just in order to carry out what she believes God has charged her to do?

There has recently been a shortage of priests, and there are women who wish to become one but are being denied. Surely it would be logical to allow women to be ordained, this wouldn’t do any harm to anyone but would easily overcome the shortage of priests.

On the other hand, it can be argued that Jesus was a man and in the carrying out of his role, a priest represents Jesus. Jesus also appointed twelve men as disciples and no women. Jesus was not afraid to break other conventions, he talked to women and other outcasts of society, and so he wouldn’t have hesitated to choose women as his disciples if he had really wanted to. He obviously had his reasons for sticking to men.

Male priesthood has gone on for two thousand years and no experiment of female priesthood has lasted, why should this time be any different? Besides, there is nothing wrong with male priesthood, most people are perfectly happy with it the way it is, so why should this be changed now, perhaps causing division?

When women were ordained to the Anglican Church in 1994, it resulted in a split in the church. We should learn from our mistakes and not damage things further. What is to say that if we try to ordain women to the catholic Church the same thing will not happen, or even worse. Besides, if women are ordained to priesthood it may result in the undervaluing of the role played by lay women, who do a lot for the church.

I am inclined to agree with the point of view that women should be given the right to ordain women. So much has changed since the times of First Century Palestine; there is no reason for this not to change. If women wish to become priests they should not be denied that right. There is so much talk of equality and human rights. The church is always participating greatly in charity events to raise money for those less well off than us, confirming that they believe that all human beings are equal. And yet the Church is denying women the right of being ordained. Surely this is hypocrisy?


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