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Except in the matter of divorce, Jesus said nothing explicit about woman's position in religion or society, yet he is heralded by Christians as the key figure in the emancipation of women. Certainly he was the focus of faith and devotion for the female subjects of this study; the more women spoke and wrote on their own behalf, the more explicitly Christ-centered the material became. The emotional aspect of their piety often took precedence over rational content; their references to biblical passages bespoke more gratitude and reverence than argument and proof. The person and sacrifice of Jesus were the source of their devotion, but the record of that person and sacrifice was contained in the four gospels. The gospels refer to women among Jesus' disciples, women he healed, women who supported his ministry, women who appeared as characters in his parables, and women as they figured in his discussions of divorce. In part, his impact on the "woman issue" stems from what he refrained from saying. He chose no female apostles and led no feminist revolt, yet he did not reflect the strong antifeminism of his culture. Daly, p. 79.

An example of Jesus' reversal of Judaic sexism is found in the two accounts of his responding to the Pharisees' question on divorce rights:

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female. And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. (Matt. 19:3-9.)

The Mark account (Mark 10:2-12), which was written earlier, gives no grounds for divorce and names each party equally guilty of adultery in remarriage.

These are as close to a theology of creation as Jesus provided. Feminist Biblical scholars tend to interpret them as a commentary on the original state of equality and grace intended "from the beginning of the creation," compromised by Moses because of the "hardness of men's hearts." Sin, therefore, established a system of male-dominance that Jesus did not sanction. Hull, p. 15. While this reading may reflect the scholars' cultural bias too strongly, Jesus did make a statement on the sacredness of marriage and claimed some equal rights for sexes within its vows.

The instances of Jesus' healing involved women as often as men, including his touching the ill person (Luke 13:11-13) or allowing her to touch him (Luke 8:43-48). In the latter passage, the woman had touched only the hem of his garment, yet when she was discovered "she came trembling and falling down before him." After she confessed she had contacted him and been healed, he responded, "Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith had made thee whole; go in peace." Other gospel passages refer to his healing Peter's mother-in-law while visiting in her home (Mark 1:29-31), casting an evil spirit from the daughter of a Greek Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30), and restoring to health the only daughter of Jairus, a synagogue ruler (Luke 9:41-42 49-56). The bereavement and subsequent delight of Jairus and his family gives evidence against the low regard with which the Jews held their female offspring and is a contrast to the humiliation expressed by the woman in Luke 8.

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Source:  OpenStax, Patricia martin's phd thesis. OpenStax CNX. Dec 12, 2012 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11462/1.1
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