Low Status of Women

A Strange But Important Fact

You might think that is an odd fact, but in a patriarchal society, women were not regarded very highly. Here are some noteworthy examples:

Prayer for an unborn child: “O God, let not my offspring be a girl: for very wretched is the life of women.”

Morning Prayer: the men blessed God “who has not made me a Gentile, ... a slave, ... a woman.”

“Let no one talk with a woman in the street, no not with his own wife.”

“Let the words of the Law be burned,” says Rabbi Eleazar, “rather than committed to women.”

Furthermore, a female's testimony wasn't seen to be anywhere near the level of a testimony of a man.

“But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex” ... (Josephus, Antiquities, 4.8.15).

“Any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer)” ... (Talmud, Rosh Hashana 1.8c).

“Wherever the Torah accepts the testimony of one witness, it follows the majority of persons, so that two women against one man is identical with two men against one man. But there are some who declare that wherever a competent witness came first, even a hundred women are regarded as equal to one witness ... but when it is a woman who came first, then two women against one man is like half-and-half” (Talmud, b.Mas. Sotah 31b).

Lastly, Luke says of the women’s report of the empty tomb to the disciples, “And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them” (Luke 24:11). Peter and John did check the tomb for themselves, but Luke’s gospel makes it clear that they thought the women's testimony was undependable. This attitude to testimony from women is unsurprising in light of the legal situation described above.

But we find that in spite of that, the gospels report that women were the first witnesses of the empty tomb of Jesus. If this story was an invention, they would have never used women to make their case. So when historians see this kind of embarrassing admission, it speaks of its historicity.


From a resurrection expert:

 “As historians, we are obliged to comment that if these stories had been made up five years later, let alone thirty, forty, or fifty years later, they would never have had Mary Magdalene in this role. To put Mary there is, from the point of view of Christian apologists wanting to explain to a skeptical audience that Jesus really did rise from the dead, like shooting themselves in the foot. But to us as historians, this kind of thing is gold dust. The early Christians would never, never have made this up.”

- N. T. Wright,  Serving as the Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews. For twenty years he taught New Testament studies at Cambridge, McGill and Oxford Universities. Author of The Resurrection of the Son of God,  a 2,000-page historical tome on the resurrection.

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