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

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RS Coursework 1: Women                Alice Schurov

  1. 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.

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. 

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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 ...

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