Women and the Genesis of Christianity

  • Author:  Ben Witherington III
  • Editor:  Ann Witherington
  • ISBN 10:  0521367352
  • ISBN 13:  9780521367356
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Published:  1990
  • Pages:  294
  • Language: English
  • Format:  PDF
  • Amazon Price:  $38.99


This book sets out to presents in as clear and objective a way as possible the New Testament material relating to women and their roles in the context of the movement Jesus began.

Dr. Witherington begins by illustrating the roles of women in Judaism, in the Hellenistic world, and in the Roman Empire. He goes on to show how Jesus broke significantly with convention in the way he viewed women and their roles, offering as he did a wholly new conception of the rights of women in society. An analysis follows of the apostle Paul’s attitude toward women, which shows how he agreed with and differed from the ideas of his contemporaries. Witherington then provides separate sections on the Evangelists, whose selection and presentation of material with respect to women casts much light on the early Church’s understanding of women and their status.

This comprehensive survey, which avoids slanting its material to serve a modern patriarchal or feminist bias, comes to the exciting conclusion that we can see in the New Testament an attempt to reform the patriarchal orientation of the day and permits women to hold a new kind of authority in religious contexts.

This study explores the role of women in New Testament times. Beginning with the woman’s place in Judaism, in the Hellenistic world, and in the Roman Empire, Witherington demonstrates how Jesus broke significantly with convention in how he viewed women, offering as he did a wholly new conception of the legitimate rights of women in society.

Witherington looks at women not as they are sometimes read into the New Testament, but as they are portrayed by New Testament writers. In this way he allows the Bible to address contemporary concerns rather than serve partisan purposes. The result is rich and surprisingly revolutionary. Jesus, Paul, and the Gospel writers move well beyond the limits of their own and surrounding societies in their respect for women and their vision for women in the new reality of God’s kingdom. They do so on their own terms and within their actual context, rather than as advocates for anyone’s contemporary agenda.

I found myself both glad for this readable overview and wishing for the more complete background and documentation of his more extensive works on women in the ministry of Jesus and the First Century Church.

Of great contemporary importance to Christians

By Anne Rice

This is a very fine and extremely relevant work of scholarship in which a deeply respected author covers a subject of vital interest — the role of women in the New Testament. Witherington is reverant, responsible, thorough, and often brilliant. The book is rich in observations, insights, and well supported conclusions about all aspects of the texts. I’m especially concerned with this subject matter because it seems to me that “the woman’s movement” has caused a crisis for some traditional Christians today. Witherington is absolutely right to insist that, on these issues, the Bible should have its say. Indeed, yes, the Bible should have its say. Readers will find this not only immensely satisfying but enjoyable; it’s profound writing for the mainstream. One might want to buy several copies of this book and, politely, offer them to friends, ministers and priests. Highly recommended. I also recommend Craig S. Keener’s Paul, Women & Wives. — […].

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