Blog, Thoughts

The First Witnesses to the Resurrection & Gender Equity in the Church

This week, celebrating the Resurrection should remind us all of the liberating power of the Gospel. I am saddened when I hear stories of those who use the name of Jesus to maintain power over others. It is distressing to contemplate how the empty tomb, that should offer freedom to everyone, has been miscommunicated and misused. Even today, according to the doctrines of the country’s largest denomination, women are denied any semblance of genuine leadership responsibility at church and at home. Here is some interesting information from theologian Greg Boyd’s defense of the Resurrection regarding the prominence of women in the Gospel narrative:

“There are many other considerations that lend credibility to the Bible’s four Gospel accounts of the resurrection. Perhaps the most surprising of these is the fact that all the accounts agree that it was women who first found the tomb empty. This may mean little to us in our day, but in first century Jewish society women were, quite frankly, often regarded as being incurable talebearers. They weren’t in most circumstances even allowed to testify in court!

No wonder, then, that the male disciples didn’t believe them when the women first brought them their report that the tomb was empty (Luke 24:11). No wonder, also, that Paul does not include women in his list of people to whom the Lord appeared (1 Cor. 15). Since this report was originally circulated in a Jewish environment before it was passed on to Paul, as we’ve seen, the women’s testimony would have been seen as being irrelevant, if not damaging, to the report. Hence they are deleted from the earliest church creed about the event.

This inculcated sexism may (and should) aggravate us today. But the effect it has on the Gospel accounts which do include women—as playing a central role in the whole story—is to greatly increase their credibility. If the Gospel stories were fabricated, as certain scholars in the media today suggest, the last thing these fabricators would have wanted to put in their story was that it was women who first discovered that the tomb of Jesus was empty, and (in the case of Matthew and John) that it was to women that Jesus first appeared! The fact that they did report it this way, therefore, strongly implies that these accounts are not fabrications. The only motive these various authors could have had for telling their story like they did is because that was how the story actually unfolded.”

I love the fact that at the most important moment in human history, Jesus chose to reveal Himself to women first…

a strange choice in a religious culture that treated women like second-class citizens.

Scripture is wrought with a clear message of Jesus’ utter disregard for appearance and social rank. In Judean society, it was a major taboo for a man to even speak to a woman who was not his own wife or daughter. Yet, Jesus interacted regularly with foreign women, He taught women, He ignored ritual impurity laws, and readily accepted women into His inner circle of followers.

Given these truths, why still do so many denominations place limits on the roles of women inside the walls of their church? Why do many in the Christiantradition misuse the Scriptures to assert male dominance over their sisters in faith?

In order to use the Bible to suppress women, one must altogether ignore the fact that Jesus’ ministry was supported by women. Although He had twelve male followers, Luke strongly suggests that just as many women traveled with Him and “were helping to support them [Jesus and the disciples] out of their own means” (Luke 8:3 NIV).

Yet, there is actually a church not far from me here in the Midwest that does not allow women to speak during their worship services…

That’s right.

Right here.

In America.

In 2011.

An entire church that misses the Good News of the Gospel today because of their choice to silence women…

As Eugene Peterson comments in his introduction to Galatians, “When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting them or keeping them ‘in their place.'” We need to reclaim the story of the liberating power of the Resurrection for all people. We mustrespond tothe much truer and more radical vision is spelled out by Paul to the early church in Galatians 3:28 (MSG): “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal.”

You can check out Greg Boyd’s wonderful defense of the Resurrection here:

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