Women are considered to be the backbone of any community and without them; there is no peace. They have this special connection with any community in which they belong and therefore, they must be respected. Women are treated differently according to different cultures. In some communities, they are treated as slaves while in other communities they are treated as queens. Due to this, women’s roles vary from one community to another and it is evident that these roles are essential for the survival of these communities. This paper focuses on the role of women in the Jewish world.
Their roles were determined by the Hebrew Bible, oral law, custom and by nonreligious cultural factors. Women in the Jewish world were portrayed as being inferior to men in the early Christian churches until the coming of Jesus and according to the author of Luke-Acts; women around Jesus were marginalized in order to minimize their stature within early Christian churches. The fact that women were marginalized proves that they were of little importance to the Jewish Christian community. This, and many other factors such as oppression by the Romans, corruption by the Herodias and oppression of women, whether Jewish or not, led women to join the Jesus movement.
According to an essay by Bernadette Brooten (1986), she argued that the reconstruction of Jewish women’s history in the Roman period was important to Christian theology. This history was essential to achieve many goals and Brooten was completely correct to use theology as one of these goals but there is still the danger that people may allow Christian scholars and theological concerns to dictate the reconstruction of Jewish women’s lives. It has been argued that the study of Jewish women in the first century is the only source that we can use to understand why the women followed the Jesus movement and the roles, presence and self-understanding of those that followed Him.
There are different interpretations to Jewish women’s roles according to different authors. Women carried out ritual roles but according to Witherington (“Women, in the new testament” 957), only ritual impurity contributed to women’s participation in the synagogue and their involvement in the synagogue included following the Jesus movement. In order to follow Jesus, one had to be pure in spirit and it may be true that this is the reason behind them following Him but it is not wholly true because it is evident that in the first century there were different factors affecting the roles of women in the society as illustrated before. Women’s role in the Jewish community evolved ever since Jesus came to the Jews. They took charge of their responsibilities and became an important pillar in the foundation of the Jewish community.
In the Jewish community, women had ritual roles in the temple. They were making pilgrimages in the temple and conducted the Passover at least once in a year.
In the opinion of Alexandre, (“Early Christian Women” 419), the evolution of women’s roles was met with masculine hostility because before the coming of Jesus they did not really matter to the community. It is evident in the gospel books found in the new testament of the bible that women’s empowerment was not yet accepted in the community. In the books of Mark and Luke, women’s comments and conclusions on various subjects were greatly undermined by their male counterparts therefore; they were always terrified to speak before of them. However, the men in the society were challenged by one event-the resurrection of Jesus after He was crucified on the cross. According to the gospel of John, Jesus appeared first to Mary of Magdalena. This symbolizes that the women were important to the Jewish community. In spite of this happening, the men, specifically the apostles, could not believe that Jesus had appeared to her first (Luke 24:11). This proves that it was quite a difficult concept for them to understand that Jesus would take women to be His first priority over the men. Nonetheless, Jesus’ resurrection proved to be a revelation in the eyes of many that changes had to be made in how the Jewish community views women.
The fact that women are an important part of the Jewish world has eventually been accepted over time due to evolution of worldwide trends. Many Jewish women have stood out to become very influential people in their community, their country and the world at large. Their commitment to sensitive matters affecting the Jewish world is much greater than the commitment that men would have and they have proved several times that they are capable of doing whatever they need to do in order to make their community a better place to live in.
The coming of Jesus in the Jewish world played a big part in empowering women in the Jewish community. It enabled them to step up and take responsibility for their roles in the Jewish community and improved their community socially. Jewish women’s role is therefore fundamental for their community’s survival.
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