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About the Author

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.  www.icwhp.org

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 drsuehyatt@live.com.

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 examples: (1)

  • 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 43b)
  • 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 value.

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 women.

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 today.

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?

END NOTES_______________-

1.  Leonard Swidler, "Jesus Was a Feminist" Catholic World (January 197 1) as reported on the Christians for Biblical Equality website: www.cbeinternational.org

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" (n.p.).

8.  Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 482


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