Susan Hyatt is a Church research historian and Bible scholar. She graduated
with honors from the University of New Brunswick Teachers College and Christ for
the Nations Institute, and summa cum laude from Southwestern Assemblies of God
University. She earned two M.A.s with honors from Oral Roberts University, one
in Historical-Theological Studies with emphasis in Pentecostal Charismatic
Studies; the other, in Biblical Studies. She has studied at the Center for
Advanced Theological Studies at Fuller Theological School and was awarded her D.Min. degree from Regent University in 1999.
She is the recipient of numerous academic awards such as WHO'S WHO Among
Students, the National Religion and Philosophy Award, National Dean's Honor's
List, Academic All American, Delta Epsilon Chi (Honor Society of the American
Association of Bible Colleges), and the Canadian Governor-General's Medal.
Susan is also a seasoned minister and professional educator. Her passion is to
see genuine Christianity prevail over fallen culture and human centered
religion. Within genuine biblical Christianity, she believes, is everything that
will enable believers to flourish in life. She is the founder of the
International Christian Women's History Project with the goal of promoting
biblical womanhood and writing God's women back into history. Check out her
website for exciting ministry opportunities.
For a decade, Susan has ghost-written for several ministers and ministries that
have a global impact. Now she is producing her own renewal revival oriented
material. Her first book was Where Are My Susannas? a challenging little
book about Susanna Wesley, Phoebe Palmer, and Aimee Semple McPherson. Her
book, In the Spirit We're Equal, and the manual are now available in course format for
personal study, Bible college and seminar use and archived lessons at www.icwhp.org.
Susan and her husband, Eddie L. Hyatt, are partners in life and ministry, in
research and writing. Together they have planted and pastored churches, founded
and directed Bible schools, and ministered intentionally. They are co-founders
of Hyatt Int'l Ministries. The mission of H.I.M. is teaching, training, and
equipping the people of God for EndTime renewal/revival. Dr. Vinson Synan, Dean
of the School of Divinity, Regent University, writes, "Eddie and Susan were two
of the best students I have ever taught. They are one of the finest teams of
husband and wife researchers that I have ever known."
Susan is a member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, the Evangelical
Theological Society, Christians for Biblical Equality, Victory Fellowship of
Ministries, and Friends in Harvest.
Jesus, Friend of Women
by Dr. Susan C. Hyatt
" Jesus Friend of Women" is found in Chapter 2 of Sue's book In the
Spirit We're Equal. The book and manual can be purchased from Sue at www.icwhp.org, click "bookstore." She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bible tells us that Jesus went about doing good. As our Supreme Example,
He showed us how to relate to one another. In the Bible, we see Him in action in
an historical setting, and in our daily life, by His indwelling Holy Spirit, we
experience His prompting and empowerment to emulate Him.
Jesus lived in "a man's world," yet He often went against the norms of
patriarchal culture by treating women as persons equal with men. In general, we
miss this when we read the Gospels and we fail to grasp the radical nature of
Jesus' actions because we lack knowledge of the oppressive conditions suffered
by women of that day. We can gain some insight, however, through listening to
the hostility expressed in religious writings of the day. Consider the following
- The oral law of Jesus' day said, "Let the words of the Law be burned
rather than committed to women.... If a man teaches his daughter the Law, it
is as though he taught her lewdness" (Sotah 3:4). (2)
- "The woman, says the Law, is in all things inferior to man. Let her
accordingly be submissive" (Apion 2:2 1 0). (3)
Let a curse come upon the man who must needs have his wife or children say
grace for him. (4)
- Praise be to God that he has not created me a gentile; praised be God
that created me not a woman; praised be God that he has not created me an
ignorant man (This is a thanksgiving prayer of Jews in Jesus' day). (Menahot
- It is well for those whose children are male, but ill for those whose
children are female ... At the birth of a boy all are joyful, but at the
birth of a girl all are sad ... When a boy comes into the world, peace comes
into the world; when a girl comes, nothing comes . . . Even the most
virtuous of women is a witch (Nidda 3 lb).
Examples of social practices in Jesus' day also help us understand the
deprecation of women.
- In the Jerusalem temple, women were limited to one outer portion, the
women's court, which was five steps below the court for the men.
- A rabbi regarded it beneath his dignity to speak to a woman in public.
- Women were kept for childbearing and rearing and were always under the
strict control of a man.
The Gospel writers show us that Jesus countered these attitudes. Never do
they portray a negative attitude toward women. Never do they attribute a
prescribed, subservient role to women that would be in keeping with the cultural
role given women in that day. Instead, they reflect Jesus' attitudes and
actions. That the Christian community did so "underscores the clearly great
religious importance Jesus attached to his positive attitude ... toward women,"
notes Leonard Swidler. "Personalism extended to women," he adds, "is a
constitutive part of the Gospel, the Good News, of Jesus." (5)
Perhaps we think nothing of the fact that Jesus taught women the Scriptures and
revealed to them the Gospel, but in that culture, what He did was revolutionary. And do we forget that women, as well as men, were Jesus' disciples and that they
traveled with Him? It was a woman whom Jesus raised from the dead in Mt.
9:18-26, and it was largely because of women that He raised two other people
from the dead (Lk. 7:11-1 7; Jn. 11:1-44). Then, too, it was to a woman named
Martha that Jesus declared Himself to be The Resurrection (Jn. 11:25), thus
revealing first to a woman the central event and message of the Gospel. It was a
woman of ill repute whom Jesus allowed to anoint Him (Lk. 7:36-50). And it was a
woman, Mary, whom Jesus sent first to preach His Resurrection (Jn. 20:10-18). She was, in fact, the first person to be given an apostolic commission from the
Resurrected Lord. In a culture where the testimony of women was not considered
valid, Jesus sent this woman to testify to men about the most important event in
the history of humanity: The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Clearly, He
was making a radical statement about women.
Jesus Demonstrates the Personhood of a Woman
John 8:3-11. When the religious leaders brought to Jesus a woman who had been
caught in the act of adultery, they wanted to know if He would have her stoned
as the law required (Deut. 22:23-30). In the minds of the religious leaders, the
woman was merely property owned by a husband or a husband-to-be. He was, in
fact, the one who had been violated in the sense that his property--his
woman--had been misused. As "damaged goods," she had brought disgrace on him and
was no longer worthy of life. According to the law, the man involved in the
offense, as well as the woman, were to be stoned, but again, the reason for
stoning the man was not because he had violated the woman or the law, but
because he had misused another man's property.
But Jesus demonstrated an entirely different set of values in the situation. He
did not treat the woman as a man's property, but as a person of great value. He
showed respect for her by speaking to her, a thing that was prohibited in that
culture. And He spoke to her with tenderness and compassion, thereby carefully
demonstrating the high regard God places on women.
Matthew 9:20-22. In the story of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of
blood, we are told that she touched Him. According to the law, this made Him
ritually unclean, but once again, Jesus disregarded religious rules and rulers,
to help a woman. He demonstrated that God sees even one woman as being of great
Jesus Shows Woman's Equality in Marriage
Matthew 19: 1-11. Since women were considered the property of men, a man could
divorce his wife at the slightest whim; on the other hand, a woman could not
divorce her husband. Jesus rejected this double standard in His discourse on
marriage and divorce. He also rejected the notion that women are the property of
men. He clearly demonstrated that the man and the woman were to have the same
rights and responsibilities in their relationships toward each other (Mk.
10:2-12; Mt. 19:3). This is mutuality.
Jesus Shows Woman's Equal Social Status
John 4:1-26, 39-42. In Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman, He
demonstrates that she to is receive honor equal to that afforded men. Despite
strong, cultural prohibitions to the contrary, He responded to the woman with
the same regard He would have shown a man. Furthermore, as a Jew, He was not
permitted to speak to a Samaritan. And as a man, He was not to speak publicly to
a woman. Since He was a teacher, He was aware of the prohibition against
teaching women theology. But Jesus spoke publicly to this Samaritan woman about
theology! He consciously ignored three major, cultural prohibitions in this
encounter. In addition, in the process, He revealed to her that He was the
Messiah. What an astounding revelation! She then proclaimed the Good News to
both the men and the women of her village. Many Samaritans believed in Him
because of the woman's testimony.
Jesus Projects God in the Image of Woman
Jesus Projects God in the Image of Woman
Luke 15:8-10. Luke 15:8-10. We make much of the image of God as father in Jesus'
teaching, but his presentation of the image of God as woman or mother is often
overlooked. Nevertheless, He did so, and it is helpful to consider such
references. For example, He compares His desire to protect and care for
Jerusalem with the protective instincts of a mother hen spreading her wings over
her brood (Mt. 23:37; Lk. 13:34). In the parable about the woman who found the
lost coin (Lk. 15:8-10), He used the image of a woman to portray God. Swidler
thinks that Jesus included "this womanly image of God quite deliberately"
because "the scribes and Pharisees were among those who most of all denigrated
Jesus Rejects the Notion of "Woman's Role"
Luke 8:19-21. What can we learn from Luke 8:19-21?
19. "Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not
able to get near him because of the crowd. 20. Someone told him, 'Your mother
and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.' 21. He replied, "My
mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice.'"
It is customary in discussions about male/female relationships, to presume
the notion of gender-restricted roles; that is, that women have their place and
it is only a rebellious woman who would resist or override this role. In this
incident, however, Jesus demolishes this notion, for when the messenger notifies
Him that His mother and brother are wanting to see Him, Jesus redefines the
meaning of the terms! He says that His mother and brothers do not have favored
status because of their gender or familial relationships. He states, instead,
that what determines intimate relationship with Him is attentiveness to and
regard for God's Word. By his behavior, He also indicates that the honor due
mother and brothers is an honor to be extended equally to everyone.
Luke 10:38-42. Jesus teaches this principle again when He visits Martha and Mary
and praises Mary for listening attentively instead of Martha for doing "woman's
work." Consequently, Swidler says He regarded her "first as a person . . . who
was allowed to set her own priorities, and in this instance has 'chosen the
better part."' Schmidt's remarks are also well worth repeating.
Jesus saw woman as a full-fledged human being, rather than subordinate,
submissive property. In the Mary-Martha incident Martha is the sociocultural
conformist. Apparently, she had deeply internalized the patriarchal idea that
woman's place was in the kitchen. She busied herself preparing a meal for Jesus,
her guest. Mary, her sister, did what only men did, namely sit down and learn
theology. No woman in her right mind, according to the Hebraic-rabbinic
teachings, would think of doing what Mary did. Luke says that Mary "sat at
Jesus' feet and listened to His teaching" (Luke 10:39). But what is even
more significant in this account is that Jesus was the greater deviant. He,
after all, taught Mary. Such behavior was a flagrant violation of the
established theology. (6)
Jesus Rejects the Cultural Perception of Womanhood
Luke 11:27-28. One day a woman complimented Jesus by referring to how happy His
mother must have been to have had such a wonderful son. "Blessed the womb
that bore You, and breasts which nursed You!" she said. She meant well, but
Jesus rebuked her sharply. Her reference to woman in purely reproductive
terms, seemed to have bothered Jesus. Swidler remarks, "Jesus clearly felt it necessary
to reject the 'baby-machine' image of women." (7) He points out that Jesus
insisted "on the personhood, the intellectual and moral faculties, being primary
of all." Luke records Jesus' response in verse 28. He says, "Nay rather, blessed
are the ones hearing and keeping the word of God." Jesus made no gender
distinction in clarifying what the defining priority is to be: "hearing and
keeping the word of God." Furthermore, both the word choice and word order
in the Greek text indicate that He carried out his corrective action with
intense emphasis. (8)
The Risen Christ Commissions the First Apostle--A Woman
John 10: 10-18; Matthew 28: 1-10. It is a well known fact that the women were
the last ones to leave the Cross and the first ones to arrive at the Tomb. When
Mary Magdalene visited the tomb early on Resurrection morning and found it
empty, without delay, she reported to the disciples that Jesus' body was
missing. They all hastened to the scene, but they did not grasp the significance
of the empty tomb because "they still did not understand from Scripture that
Jesus had to rise from the dead" (Jn. 20:9). So they returned home, but Mary
lingered behind. It was then that Jesus appeared to her and said, "Go and tell
my brothers. . . . "
This appearance and commission are significant for several reason. During the
forty days between His resurrection and ascension, Jesus appeared to His
disciples at various times, and on one occasion he appeared to over five hundred
of His followers. The Gospel writers, however, are explicit in noting that it
was Mary Magdalene to whom He appeared first after His resurrection. The
importance which the evangelists attach to this fact indicates that it was not
an accidental occurrence, but that Jesus purposely appeared first to this woman. He could just as easily have appeared to a man; instead, He honored a woman.
In appearing to Mary Magdalene, Jesus was making a very important statement. It
was a statement, perhaps, that the disciples could not have grasped by a mere
lecture. This statement was further clarified by the words which Jesus spoke to
her on this occasion: "Go and tell my brethren. . . ."
"Go and tell" defines the commission. Interestingly, the
New Testament word apostle literally means "one who is sent." Mary thus received
the first apostolic commission from the Risen Lord to proclaim the greatest fact
in history, the resurrection.
"Go and tell My brothers. . . . " defines her audience. Jesus was sending her to men, not women. In other words, her commission was not
limited to a "women's ministry," as is so often the restriction placed on women
This was revolutionary thinking, indeed, for in both Roman and Jewish courts of
law, the testimony of a woman was not permitted as evidence. By appearing to
Mary Magdalene, Jesus was, therefore, cutting through any remnants of disdain
and prejudice in His male disciples toward His female disciples. He no doubt was
also teaching the women something revolutionary about their responsibility. Thus, Jesus declared His equal acceptance and expectation of women while also
confirming their public responsibility as ministers of the New Covenant.
Jesus was a friend of women. He vigorously promoted the dignity and equality of
women in terms of both value and function, and He left us this example. Is it
not our responsibility now to emulate His attitudes and actions?
1. Leonard Swidler, "Jesus Was a Feminist" Catholic World (January 197 1)
as reported on the Christians for Biblical Equality website:
2. Cited by A. Schmidt, Veiled and Silenced: How Culture Shaped Sexist
Theology (Macon: Mercer Univ. Press, 1989), 83.
3. Schmidt, 82.
4. Cited by Swidler.
5. Cited by Swidler.
6. Schmidt, 167. See Deut. 6:7; 11:19; 12:28; 29:22, 29; 32:46.
7. Swidler writes,"But her image of woman was sexually reductionist in the
extreme (one that largely persists to the present): female genitals and breasts"
8. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text,
The New International Greek Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 482