Antonella da Messina, Annunciation, Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo.
For which he has used as model an Arab Sicilian girl who looks up
from prayer at the moment of the Angel's Message.


{ur Bishop of Fiesole has given us the Gospel, speaking of it as ' Christ the Door' , through which we may enter the Kingdom of Heaven, this Jubilee . Our Father Founder, don Divo Barsotti , of the Comunita` dei figli di Dio, speaks of us all as the 'One Body of Christ', that Body which we shall be at the Resurrection - men, women , old, young, free, slave - all 'One in Christ' , and has himself written on Women in the Gospels . Pope John II had himself photographed in the Slave Door in Senegal, and televised opening the Basilicas' Holy Doors of Jubilee. Christ tells us, quoting Genesis, that man and woman are 'one flesh' , Paul speaking of this as a great mystery. Shall we have oil for our lamps ready when the Holy Door is opened, when the cry goes up, ' The Bridegroom has come!'? Christ would say, 'Yes, if we listen to God's Word and do it'. Then we become the Word's mother, brothers, sisters (Matthew 12.46-50; Mark 3.31-35; Luke 8.19-21). The Church is Christ's Bride.

In Judaism it is the mother who begins the Sabbath with kindling and blessing the Sabbath Lights, 'Blessed art thou, O King of the Universe, who hast given us Thy Commandments and Bidst us Light these Sabbath Lights'. Christ tells us he is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2.28). On the Sabbath God's Creation is the Bride awaiting God her Spouse. The Good News, the 'Gospel', is the Jubilee , of the Sabbath of Sabbaths. This essay examines the text of the Greek Testament as it relates to the outsiders, the others, of the Greek and Hebrew worlds, those who are Samaritans, who are women , who are lepers, who are children, seeing Christ's message, like Gandhi's, like John XXIII's, like Martin Luther King's, as the inclusion of the excluded, as the freeing from evil, the last line of the Lord's Prayer, Christ reading the Isaiah scroll, Peter proclaiming Joel's text. It is a commentary by an outsider, a woman , poor, deaf, upon the Gospel as door of entry to Christ, and to the Kingdom of Heaven: ' Ephphatha!' 'Maranatha!'

A carpenter, several fishermen and a tax gatherer on the shores of Galilee began a ministry together, supported by their womenfolk . Later a tent-maker would continue their task, and a physician, these latter two proficient in the Greek of Athens and Alexandria, Paul belonging also to the hated Empire as a Roman Citizen. When Christ read from the Isaiah scroll in the Synagogue at Nazareth he read in Hebrew. But he spoke in Aramaic, the dialect of the region. Likewise did Peter, who was despised for this in Jerusalem. Their nation had come under the sway of the Persian, Greek, then Roman Empires, while they had also experienced slavery in Egypt. When Christ was crucified a mocking scroll was placed upon the cross, saying in Hebrew, Greek and Latin that this was Jesus, King of the Jews. He was to become truly King of Kings in both Greek and Latin, reigning above all Empires.

The Gospel came to be written in imperial Greek, then was translated into imperial Latin, its Vulgate translation by Jerome carried out in the Bethelehem cave adjacent to that of the Birth of the Word, and assisted by Paula and her daughter Eustochium. Sometimes, especially in Mark, we hear an Aramaic word, ' Talitha cum!, Little girl, arise!', 'Ephphatha', 'Be opened', 'Eloi, eloi, lama sebacthani' 'Lord, Lord, why have you forsaken me', 'Rabbouni', 'Teacher', 'Alleluia', 'Praise God' 'Amen' 'It is said, it is done, it is'. 'Marathana!', 'Our Lord, come!' When we ourselves say 'Amen', at the Mass, we, women as well as men, affirm the Body and Blood in a speech act in Jesus' own Hebrew. 'It is said, it is done, it is' . Greek abstracted word from deed; Hebrew marries them, God creating the World with the Word, delighting in that Creation every Sabbath as if his Bride. Translating Hebrew into Greek causes a loss. When Jesus humbly calls himself 'son of man', 'huios tou anthropou', which is so colourless and indefinite in the Greek, in Hebrew he would instead have been saying 'Ben-Adam' , in Aramaic 'Bar-Adam' , that he is Everyone, our Brother and that we are with him, Christ, and thus Christianized and Christian.

Let us put Christ back into his Hebrew context. What would have been the first prayer that Mary would have taught her Son to say each night? 'Into thy hands [yadika], O Lord, I commend my spirit [ruah]'. She is still hearing him pray that prayer as she stands at the foot of the cross. What would have been on the lintel of the doorpost of their home in Nazareth? 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One' . At twelve years old he would have been prepared to read the Hebrew Scriptures in the Synagogue and the Temple with the Elders. In Hebrew worship the child is equal with the elder. Though women are kept apart in an upper gallery. Jesus as a child would have begun the Passover by asking the question, 'Why is this night special above all nights?' His mother would have begun each Sabbath by blessing the Sabbath Lights. Then his lay father would have celebrated by blessing the Sabbath bread and wine, fruit of the vine and the work of human hands. In Judaism the family is sacred, the High Priest of the Temple had a wife, was a married man.


Three of the Gospels have much in common, the fourth, of John, being different. Let us first go through the Synoptic Gospels, concentrating on Luke, indeed studying the Synoptic Gospels through that of Luke, and of its sequel, Acts, while studying John apart. And conclude with references to women in the Epistles and the Apocalypse.

Lindisfarne Gospels, Opening of Gospel of Luke. By Permission of The British Library, MS Cotton Nero D.IV.fol. 139.

Luke opens by saying he has paid heed to eyewitness reports, which would have included those by women eyewitnesses, and that he writes this Gospel to his patron, Theophilus, whose Greek name means ' Friend of God', that he may know the truth (Luke 1.1-4, Acts 1.1-2). These two texts may have been assisted by Mary, Mother of Christ, by Prisca, Aquila's wife (Acts 18.2,26; 1 Corinthians 16.19; Romans 16.3; 2 Timothy 3.19), and by Philip's four daughters who were prophets (Acts 21.8-9). Luke's Gospel next launches into a parallelism, of Zechariah and Elizabeth, both priestly, with Mary and Joseph, both lay, the first couple, parents to John the Baptist, the second, to Jesus the Christ, Gabriel appearing to Zechariah in Jerusalem, and to Mary in Nazareth, where she ponders on the Annunciation, obedient to the prophecy (rhyma, Luke 1.38), pregnant Mary then singing the Magnificat at the Visitation, Zechariah the Benedictus at John's Naming, his baby son in his arms. Alfred Edersheim, the Victorian scholar, noted that Zechariah and Elizabeth were exempt from the double taxation, to Temple and Caesar, that Joseph and Mary had to pay (for the latter of which the Census, driving them to Bethelehem, was enforced). He added that the priestly caste, protected both by Temple and Caesar, was of tremendous wealth, while lay Jews were bled white by taxation. Della Robbia has an enchanting terra cotta scene of the aged, stooped, post-menopausal, laughing, married, pregnant Elizabeth , with osteoporosis, greeting the young, straight, virgin, still-unwed, mother-to-be Mary , both impossibilities made possible by God. Matthew, in his narration, notes that Mary was almost divorced by Joseph (Matthew 1.18-25).

That scene is followed by the birth and the laying of the Child in the manger, there being no room for them at the inn of their ancestor David's city, and the greeting by the shepherds, Mary treasuring all these prophecies (rhymata ) in her heart (Luke 2.19). (Matthew alone gives the story of Herod, the Magi, the Slaughter of the Innocents, their mothers mourning for them like Rachel for her children, and the Flight into Egypt, 2.1-23). Next is the Presentation in the Temple, again balanced as to gender, Simeon singing the words of his Canticle, the aged man holding the new-born Messiah in his arms, accompanied by the aged Temple prophet Anna , likewise praising God and speaking about the Messiah in this Child. Both children, John and Jesus, grow in God's wisdom. John, the wealthy priest's son, living in the wilderness, Jesus, the poor carpenter's son, at twelve going up to the Temple and sitting among the doctors, asking them Passover questions, his mother again treasuring these prophecies (rhymata ) in her heart (Luke 2.51). This three-fold emphasizing (Luke 1.38, 2.19, 2.51) of rhymata, of 'what is said, word, saying', echoes more the Hebrew concept, where the word for thing and what is said are one, dibar, the act of saying ' amen' making the thing be so, rather than Greek's divorce and abstraction of ideal from matter.

Julian of Norwich seems to have access to this concept where she speaks of the truth and wisdom in Mary's soul, analogizing this to the Word become flesh within both Mary 's body and her own, as they both contemplate upon the Advent Great O Antiphon, O Sapientia, O Wisdom .

{Ure gracious & goode lorde god shewed me in party the wisdom & the trewthe of the soule of oure blessed lady saynt mary where in I understood the reuerent beholdynge that she behelde her god that is her maker. maruelynge with grete reuerence that he wolde be borne of her that was a simple creature of his makyng ~ Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love, Westminster Cathedral Manuscript

Thus Luke, the Physician Gospeler, writes Mary's Gospel, as if obstetrically, emphasizing Mary 's contemplation, rhyma/rhymata (Luke1.38, 2.19, 2.51), as physically enclosing her Child of flesh and blood, next giving birth to that Child, then watching that Child grow in stature and wisdom, the Word become flesh, speaking in the Temple and dwelling in our midst. Marguerite Porete and Julian of Norwich adopt that image in turn for their writing of their theological works. Visions of Mary in Julian's period show the Virgin not with the Child, but the Book, the Gospel, representing her Child, for so she appeared to the priest telling of St Birgitta of Sweden 's birth in Scandinavia, and so she appeared to the two shepherdesses of the Ricoveri family, at the Madonna delle Grazie al Sasso, above Florence, in Italy. Even the red and blue of medieval manuscripts' capitals, as here with Julian's text, {O reflect the alternating and pulsating living colours of the umbilical cord at childbirth, Mary/Jesus going back to the one flesh of Eve /Adam. The Gospels are not academic 'dead writing', but intensely alive. Indeed the lovely Psalm 139 speaks of us as knit marvelously in our mother's womb, as written in God's Book. We will return to this image given by Christ's words in John's Gospel to Nicodemus.

First John goes into the Wilderness, to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 3.2; Mark 1.1-14), then Jesus, following his Baptism by John. Luke waits until this point to give Jesus' genealogy back to Ben-Adam, son of God (Luke 3.23-38). Matthew began his Gospel with that paternal genealogy, from Abraham, through David to Joseph (Matthew 1.1-17). But one's Judaism is not through one's father, but one's mother, Judaism a matriarchy. Matthew adds Rahab the Gentile prostitute and Ruth the Gentile widow as the sole women to his list (1.5). Jesus returns after forty days to preach in the Synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath. Standing, he first reads the words of Isaiah about the Jubilee , the Sabbath of Sabbaths:

Then, handing back the scroll to the attendant and sitting in Moses' Seat, he explicates the text, observing that doctors should first heal themselves, that prophets are not without honour save in their own country, that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's day but he helped one who was a Gentile, a Syro-Phoenician, with a cruse of oil (as would likewise Elisha), that there were many lepers in Israel in Elisha's day but he helped one who was a Gentile, a Syrian. Behind those narrations is also Elijah's and Elisha's resurrections of the dead children of the widow of Zarepta and of the Shunamite woman, from which Julian takes the refrain ' And all shall be well' . At first Jesus' audience is receptive, though critical of his local origin, then enraged by his inclusion, rather than exclusion, of women and gentiles and lepers, those who are outsiders, by prophets. So much so they are ready to scapegoat him by hurling him off a cliff for all their anger at the other - who is ourselves.

Jesus quits Nazareth for Capharnaum, repeating John's proclamation concerning the Kingdom of Heaven, gathering disciples to himself (Matthew 4.13-22; Mark 1.16-20). Next we see him healing in the Synagogue at Capharnaum a man possessed by demons, French speaking of such madmen as 'aliéné' from society, the stranger (Luke 4.31-37; Mark 21-28). He crosses the road from that Synagogue on the shores of the Lake of Galilee to Simon Peter's home, whose mother-in-law is in bed with fever. He heals her too and she immediately arises and 'deacons' to them, serving their meal (Luke 4.38-39; Matthew 8.14-15; Mark 1.29-31). After many other miracles and much preaching, in a city by Galilee a leper comes and says, 'Lord if you choose, you can make me clean'. Jesus immediately touched him, saying 'Be made clean' (Luke 5.12-16; Matthew 8.1-4; Mark 1.40-45). Another day he calls to him as follower, Matthew Levi, one of the hated tax-collectors and then even attends a banquet with his fellow tax-collectors and other sinners, to the disdain and criticism of Pharisees and Scribes. He replies to them, echoing the earlier 'Physician, Heal Thyself', 'Those who are well need no physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous to repentence, but sinners'. They criticize him, saying John the Baptist and his followers drink no wine, to which Jesus replies with the image of the wedding feast, that coupling of men and women as one flesh. Jesus' cousin, from great priestly wealth and privilege, had espoused poverty. Jesus, from misery, espouses joy (Luke 5.29-39; Mark 2.14-22).

When Jesus proclaims the Beatitudes he echoes his Mother 's words of the Magnificat, of a world upside down (Matthew 5.12; Luke 1.46-55, 6.20-26). Then heals the slave of the Roman Centurion who built Capharnaum's Synagogue, because of his master's humility: ' Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and my slave shall be healed' (Luke 7.1-10; Matthew 8.5-13). And in Nain he raises the widow 's son from the dead, giving him to his mother (Luke 7.11-17). The message is sent, 'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel brought to them'. It is the Jubilee of all the outcast, all the unwanted, all the crippled, all the misfits. And he adds that all are born of women , John the greatest of these (born of Elizabeth , daughter of Aaron), yet in the Kingdom of Heaven it is the least who shall be first. He continues by speaking of children playing and singing and dancing in the marketplace (Luke 7.18-35; Matthew 11.2-19).

Della Robbia, Cantoria, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence, Illustrating Psalm 150. Fratelli Alinari 1898, Florence

A tale the other Synoptic Gospels place later, in Luke is given here, of a Banquet given by a Pharisee, and its gate-crasher, an uninvited woman guest, who behaves as should have the male host, a woman who was a sinner, entering and weeping at Christ's feet, kissing them and drying them with her hair and anointing them from a precious vase of ointment. Simon the Pharisee is shocked. (In the later account this is Simon the Leper of Bethany, shadowing too Lazarus the Leprous Beggar.) Christ tells Simon the parable of the two debtors, then explains that she who loves much is forgiven her sins, while the host had not even offered water with which to wash his feet, nor a kiss, nor unction (Luke 7.36-50; while Matthew 9.10-13, in propriety, censors the woman from the banquet, which is his own, Alfred Edersheim speaks of such tax-collectors as Matthew Levi as collecting the tribute for the Temple, exchanging shekels for the old coinage of the Temple and exacting for themselves a meah , becoming thereby filthy rich). Throughout the text Christ is called ' Messiah', 'Christ', meaning 'anointed one'. The passage he had read in the Synagogue had spoken of his anointing. But this is the first physical unction with oil we witness in these Gospels. It is now, and by a fallen woman , not by a male celibate priest, that Christ is tangibly anointed the Messiah. John had used water; the woman uses oil.

In Matthew, Mark and John the story of the anointing at the feast comes later. In Matthew and Mark it is at Bethany, just before the Crucifixion, where Jesus is in the house of Simon the Leper, and a woman comes with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, the disciples being angry at the waste. Christ tells them 'By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her '. It prompts such rage in Judas that he goes to betray Christ (Matthew 26.6-16; Mark 14.3-11). In John it is in Lazarus' house in Bethany (12.1-11).

Immediately after the anointing in Luke we learn of the twelve and of the women whom he healed and who supported his ministry, Mary Magdalen, Joanna, wife to Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others (Luke 8.1-3). Then his mother and his brothers, who were to be even named in Matthew 13.54-58, Mark 6.1-6, come, and he negates them, telling the crowd, 'My mother and my brothers are those hear the Word of God and do it' . All become included in his family, if they will hear, ' Ephphatha' (Luke 8.19-21; Matthew 12.46-50; Mark 3.31-35, these other two Synoptic Gospels stressing 'sisters ' , as well as brothers).

Because we read the Gospels as Christians, not as Jews, we lose its shock value, its scandal, it being a stumbling block, since for us the stumbling block is become cornerstone, foundation stone. Tremendous taboos are constantly violated by Christ, liberating us from Law, so much that we no longer notice this privileging. Taboos were against blood, and therefore against pre-menopausal women , against death, and therefore against tombs, which needed whitewashing during Passover (' white-washed sepulchres' Matthew 23.27), against nudity, and therefore against the criminal nude on the gallows of the cross, against carrying burdens, carrying out any work, any task, on the Sabbath, and against what is unclean, like keeping or eating pigs that carry trichinosis. Paradoxically, because we are Christian, we do not read the Gospels adequately. The next tale is full of scandalousness, the madman, naked amongst the tombs, whose Roman Legion of unclean spirits is cast out and given permission by Christ to enter into a herd of pigs, which hurl themselves off the cliff into the Lake of Galilee, a herd which represents the livelihood of the non-Jewish residents of this part. No wonder the fury and rage is immense, yet incomprehensible to both parties. And yet the drama is Liberation from the Legions of Roman oppression of both Jew and Gentile, restoring all to sanity and peacableness, that word in Hebrew, ' shalom' , meaning wholeness, wellness, freeness, harmony. The nude mad man is found clothed, in his right mind, at Jesus' feet (Luke 8.26-39; Matthew 8.28-34; Mark 5.1-20). Matthew plays off that taboo concerning animals, 'Do not give what is holy to dogs, nor cast pearls before swine' (7.6).

Immediately afterwards is the miracle of Jairus' dying twelve-year-old daughter . He is leader of the Synagogue, she at the onset of menstruation. On the way is a miracle within a miracle, the unclean woman who has been bleeding for twelve years, whom no physician could heal though paid with all her wealth, who touches the fringe of his garment, making him, in Judaism, unclean. She confesses to him and he declares, ' Daughter, your faith has made you whole' " shalom", 'Go in peace, "shalom"'. Meanwhile, Jairus' twelve-year-old daughter has died and they come to Jesus with this message, to leave him in peace "shalom ", do not trouble him further'. But Jesus comes and truly brings "shalom", also to her, Mark giving his actual Aramaic words, ' Talitha cum! ' 'Little girl , arise!' Her parents are flabbergasted and she doubly unclean, from menstruation and death. But he commands, ' Give her something to eat', caringly, lovingly, restoring her to life, to family, to community and communion. As he just has to the afflicted, hemorrhaging older woman, likewise called by him 'Daughter' (Luke 8.41-56; Matthew 9.18-26; Mark 5.21-43). Jesus forever includes us outsiders, older women, younger girls, within his sacred family of humanity, of God, Himself as our brother and bringing us to our loving, life-giving Father.

Following this we learn of Herod's obsession with Christ, and of Christ teaching his disciples to simultaneously heal and proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. Herod fears Christ is both John the Baptist and Elijah (Luke 9.7-9; 14.1-12). Matthew and Mark tell the story of John the Baptist's death, John criticizing Herod for marrying Herodias, his brother Philip's wife,Herodias seeking revenge having her daughter dance before the King, then ask for John's head on a charger, which is granted (Matthew 14.1-12; Mark 6.17-29). She is not named Salome in the Gospels.

They are in a deserted place, with crowds about them, numbering of the grown men five thousand, meaning also many more women and children who are not counted (Matthew 14.21, ' besides women and children', repeated, Matthew 15.38), and with no food except for the five loaves and two fish of a child with which to feed these five thousand plus. Mary , his mother, a woman, had asked the lacking wine be made from water at the marriage feast at Cana. A boy child, a new David, changes five stones into five loaves with which to feed five thousand and more. Together, by a woman and a child, a Eucharist is shaped. The five loaves and two fish at Tabgha amongst these five thousand plus people produce more than twelve baskets of leftovers (Luke 9.12-17; Matthew 14.13-21; Mark 8.1-9, present also in John). All of these are miracles with substances provided by outsiders. Those who do not count, who are not counted, perhaps not even in Bethlehem imperial censuses. Bethlehem in Hebrew signifies 'House of Bread', 'Beth Lehem', where House, 'Beth', also is traditionally equivalent to a woman's body and also evoking 'daughter ', 'Bath'. Christ has already told the tale of David of Bethlehem, of the House of Bread, eating the bread in the Temple from hunger with his soldiers, though all these were lay, on the Sabbath, when it could only be eaten by the priests (Luke 6.1-5; Matthew 12.1-8; Mark 2.23-28).

In Matthew this story is soon followed by that of the Syro-Phoenician woman , echoing the Syro-Phoenician widow Elijah helped, who addresses Christ as 'Son of David' and asks that her possessed daughter be healed. He replies he only helps Israel's lost sheep, that it is not right to throw the children's food to dogs. She replies, 'yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table'. And Christ, because of her faith, heals her child (Matthew 15.21-28; Mark 7.24-30). He had earlier preached in the Synagogue in Nazareth on her predecessor (Luke 4.25-26). Now he himself must live his sermon and be Elijah in turn.

It is only in Mark that we witness the healing of the deaf man unable to speak. Christ says ' Ephphatha' in Aramaic, meaning 'Be opened' to his ears, and the man's ears are opened, his tongue loosened and he can speak (Mark 7.31-37). Likewise far greater detail is given to the healing of the blind man where first he says he sees people like trees walking (Mark 8.22-26)

The Feeding of the Five Thousand and and its doublet of the Four Thousand is followed by references to John the Baptist and Elijah and Moses, transfigured into the presence of the Glory of God in the witnessing and presence of Peter, James and John, who keep sleeping as they will again at Gethsemane, and who take the words literally as about tent-making and tabernacle-making rather than the Temple of our bodies of the Spirit (Luke 9.28-36; Matthew 16.13-17.13; Mark 8.27-9.13). Following this Jesus heals a man's son who is possessed by an evil spirit, giving him back to his father, all the while speaking of his own betrayal. Peter, James and John bicker as to who is the greatest, Christ taking a child into their midst, explaining that the reception of this child, like his own reception by the Doctors in the Temple when he was twelve years old, is the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 9.37-48; Matthew 17.14-18.7; Mark 10.13-16).

He sends forth the seventy as he had earlier sent forth the twelve into the world, as if pilgrims into the Temple, with neither staff, nor purse, nor money, nor bag, nor bread, nor sandals, nor even a second tunic. He thanks his Father that these seventy have been filled with the Holy Spirit, with what is concealed from the wise but revealed to infants, doing God's will (Luke 10.1-24). A wise lawyer asks what he must do to inherit this Kingdom of Heaven. Christ's answer, the Shema, 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself'. The lawyer then asks, 'And who is my neighbour?' . The reply, the parable of the Good Samaritan, the outsider is our neighbour, the one we hate, we despise, we fear, the other, who is ourselves, our shadow. The priest and the Levite pass by the traveller beaten by robbers, left naked and bleeding by the roadside, for contact would make them ceremonially unclean. It is the Samaritan who stops and cleanses the wounds with wine and oil and binds them, putting the man on his own donkey, bringing him to the inn and paying for his stay there (Luke 10.25-37; Mark 12.28-34 without the parable).

Now, when I read that story I remember our pilgrimage in Jerusalem, our group of Christians at the Western Wall on the Sabbath Eve, where one of us left the group and fell down a flight of stairs, returing to us all bloody and bruised, and it was a fully armed Israeli soldier who helped us with water from his canteen in his helmet, bathing the Christian pilgrim's wounds with great tenderness. And worse than that, we were insisting on leaving the city by the unclean gate, the Dung Gate, through which no good Jew passes. The soldier tried to explain this to me in English, and I in Italian to the pilgrims, but they couldn't understand the enormity of what was taking place, and we were allowed to pass and were forgiven. We were representing to our Jewish neighbours in their most sacred space on their most sacred Sabbath scandal upon scandal, bloodshed and uncleanliness. But we were met by them with the greatest charity and compassion. The answer the lawyer gives to Christ, when asked, is that the Samaritan showed the greatest mercy. Christ says, 'Go and do likewise' . To the woman in adultery , 'Go and sin no more' . His command is to do charity, to cease from evil.

Next comes the tale of Martha and Mary , where Christ so clearly sees all the sibling rivalry, like that of James and John, of Cain and Abel, of Esau and Jacob, of Joseph and Benjamin and their brothers, as also present in the female gender. Martha is angered because Mary sits at Christ's feet, like Saul at Gamaliel's, as his disciple, learning from his words, when there is housework to be done, women's work to be done. Christ tells her Mary has chosen the better part, that women can be his disciples as well as men, that all may hear his words and so do his Father's will, becoming his brothers, sisters , and mother (Luke 10.38-42). Martha rebukes Mary for her Sabbath rest and Martha is at fault for not recognising the presence of the Bridegroom, the Lord of the Sabbath, in their midst, Mary at his feet, listening to, learning from, obeying, his words. Later, Mary Magdalen will fall to Christ's feet, saying ' Rabbouni', 'Teacher' (John 20.16).

Then comes the Lord's Prayer, filled with Jubilee significance, the forgiveness of debts, the freeing from evil, and and with its reference to daily bread to be given to us, followed by the story of the neighbour needing three loaves of bread for one guest (where seven loaves had earlier fed five thousand, not counting the women and children) who has come in the night, and who disturbs the householder and his sleeping children and for whom the locked, barred, door is opened. Then Christ speaks of the door, Himself, opening when knocked upon ('Ephphatha') , and adds that no father would give his own child asking for a fish a serpent, or for an egg a scorpion, or for piece of bread a stone (Luke 11.1-13; Matthew 6.7-14, 7.7-10, this last echoing Matthew 4.3-4). We are knocking upon and having opened to us the Gospel, Christ, and are being given his Bethlehem bread. Fioretta Mazzei reminds us that one piece of bread takes at least a year of labour and much collaboration by many to produce. Christ gives us a world where that production and consumption takes place between God, neighbour, family, and where it is best done with love than hate. 'Blessed art thou, O Lord, King of the Universe, who has given us Thy commandments, and who has given us this bread, fruit of the earth and the labour of human hands ', Joseph would have said each Sabbath Eve, following Mary 's Blessing of the Sabbath Lights, ' Blessed art thou, O Lord, King of the Universe, who hast given us Thy Commandments, and who bidst us light these Sabbath Lights' .

When a woman blesses the woman who bore him in her womb and who nursed him at her breast, for not only are man and wife one flesh, but so also is the mystery of the mother and child, Christ replies that all are more blessed if, like Mary, they hear God's word and do it (Luke 11.27-28), that the two must be one, word and deed. Next he speaks of the sign of Jonah, enveloping that with a reference to the Queen of Sheba coming to King Solomon from the ends of the earth for all his wisdom, echoing the lovely passages about Wisdom as God's Daughter , and about lilies of the field that neither toil nor spin, and that there is one here greater than all of Solomon's Wisdom, the Lord of the Sabbath with his Bride of the Sabbath (Luke 11.29-32). Then he speaks of Pharisees and Lawyers as akin to unmarked graves of pollution and to showy tombs to prophets whom they themselves have killed, having upon themselves the bloodshed of Abel, of Zechariah. Which angers them greatly (Luke 11.37-53; Matthew 12.38-42). He tells the lay people to trust the Holy Spirit, not to fear the punishment to the body, that God will acknowledge those acknowledging the Son of Man, ' Bar-Adam', the One Body of Christ. But those denying Him will be denied before God's angels. He speaks against greed, against the amassing of possessions, this not being of the soul or of God or of the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead we should be like slaves waiting for our Master, the Bridegroom, to come for our Heavenly Banquet (Luke 12.1-48). Mary spoke of herself as such a slave at the Annunciation, doing God's will (Luke 1.38).

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath and a woman with osteoporosis came, stooped over and crippled, a condition she had been in for eighteen long years, aged like Elizabeth and Anna, and who was unable to climb the stairs to the women 's segregated gallery. Jesus called her into the midst of the men and said, 'Woman , you are freed from your disease'. And laid his hand on her . And she stood up straight and began praising God. The leader of the synagogue was indignant because this was the Sabbath and she a woman in the midst of the men. But Christ spoke of the feeding at the manger of ox and ass, even on the Sabbath, reminding us of his birth to his mother in Bethlehem in poverty, and proclaimed that this 'Daughter of Abraham', in bondage to Satan for eighteen long years with pain and intense crippling, should be freed in a Jubilee upon the Sabbath Day! And with him the crowd rejoiced, his freeing of this 'Daughter of Abraham ', their sister , being also their shared liberation from bondage (Luke 13.1-17). A similar sense of liberation rippled through Rome the day Pope John XXIII went to Regina Coeli Prison and met with the pyjama-striped prisoners, a sense that all of us were freed from our bondage to sin through that forgiveness and liberation. We shall find in the Acts of the Apostles that women, Mary and the others, are clearly present in the midst of the men, in worship in the Upper Room, when the Jubilee of Pentecost takes place (Acts 1.13-14). Gandhi freed Untouchables in India from their shame, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks freed Blacks from the backs of buses and labelled drinking fountains, Christ freed women , 'Daughters of Abraham ', from their segregated galleries.

But he also warned that this breaking down of segregation into inclusion would bring a baptism of fire upon the earth, setting five in one house against each other, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter , daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law (Luke 12.49-53; Matthew 10.34-39). And he spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven as like a mustard seed growing into a vast tree and as like the yeast a woman took to mix into three measures of flour to make bread. And that the door is narrow into the Kingdom of Heaven and that others from east and west, north and south, shall enter to eat at the Heavenly Banquet, the last being first, the first last (Luke 13.1-30; Matthew 21.32). The Pharisees warn him of danger and he weeps over Jerusalem for killing her prophets, speaking of himself as a mother hen lovingly gathering herbrood under her wings, the image from which Julian will take her teaching of Jesus as mother , from Jesus' teaching (Luke 13.31-35).

He next launches into a theme already continuously present, of the Heavenly Banquet, of blessed bread, to which all are invited, but to which are more likely to come members of Alcoholics Anonymous, the street people, the homeless, from the highways and byways and hedgerows and gutters, rather than respectable persons buying land and oxen and brides and building houses and plotting wars (Luke 14.7-24). In Matthew, Jesus tells the elders and priests in the Temple that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into Heaven before they shall, for having believed John the Baptist, for their metanoia, and indeed this Gospel is written by such a converted tax-collector (Matthew 21.32). The Pharisees grumble while the sinners, hearing the parables, rejoice, so he tells the parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd seeking him, of the lost silver coin and the woman sweeping her house to find it, and of the Prodigal Son, squandering his inheritance, living amongst pigs, returning home as slave, to be greeted as Beloved Son (Luke 15.1-32). The privileged Pharisee as Elder Son is not amused. But Jesus tells them all it is better to love God than money. He is also harsh against those who divorce their wives or who marry divorced wives , as adulterers, remembing his mother was almost divorced by his father for adultery she had not committed (Matthew 19.3-9 noting in addition that God has said of husband and wife that they are no longer two, but one flesh, Paul saying coupling with a prostitute means becoming that one flesh). And then he tells the story of Dives and Lazarus, the leprous beggar at his gate whose sores are licked by dogs, Abraham himself being harsh on his rich son in hell, comforting his poor one in his own bosom (Luke 16.19-31). And we remember how Jesus' own ministry began with an elder cousin, John the Baptist, who greeted him not with a goat or a fatted calf or a donkey or five yokes of oxen but as the Pascal Lamb of God (John 1.36; Epistle to Hebrews 9.12). The envy of Cain for Abel is undone by the humility of John.

Next, we come to a passage of the very greatest relevance for all the churches today, the problem of clergy abuse . Christ demands of us that we do not become stumbling blocks, scandals, to the faith of children. This is forbidden, upon pain of drowning in the ocean with millstones about our necks. He tells us if one of us sins so, we others must correct this, if forgiveness is asked granting it, not otherwise. Too often victims in the churches, children, women , men, today are told by the others to forgive their abusers, who never forgive them, the victims thus becoming drowned with millstones about their necks in despair of God (Luke 17.1-4; Matthew 18.6-7; Mark 9.42). He follows this with a parable of the Lord and his servants, explaining that clergy are slaves, not masters, in their relationship to God and to the people they serve (Luke 17.7-10). He tells the brothers James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and their mother, likely Salome, not to seek preferment, which is what Gentiles do, lording it over others, but instead that the greatest must be the servant of all (Matthew 20.20-24; Mark 10.35-45). Popes, as Christ's Vicar, title themselves 'Servant of the Servants of God'.

Then, between Samaria and Galilee, Jesus meets with ten lepers whom he heals, one turning back and praising him. Who is a Samaritan (Luke 11-19). Next, discussing the end times, he describes Lot and Lot's wife leaving Sodom, and of two in one bed, one being taken, the other left, of two women grinding meal together, one being taken, the other left. Paradoxically, those who try to save their lives lose it, those who lose their life keep it (Luke 17.22-37).

Clockwise: white ochre for spiritual protection from Australia, blessed olive leaves from Montebeni, one small wild English hazel nut, one large Australian hazel nut, and sacred clapper stick, one of two, made by Annette Zerberis in Melbourne, Australia, of two women working at the mill, carved from oak. Compare with the Hopi Message for Humanity§.

Next he tells the Parable of the Unjust Judge and the Widow (Luke 18.1-8). And of the respectable and self-loving Pharisee and of the Publican, who is despised and self-despising (Luke 18.9-14). And calls to himself little children, explaining that theirs is the Kingdom of God (Luke 18.15-17). It evades those seeking power, fame, wealth, it comes to those who are outside of power, babies, children, women, the poor, the outsider, like the Samaritan and the leper. On the road to Jericho a blind beggar, named Bartimaeus in Mark, calls to him; those in front sternly order him to be silent, but Jesus calls for him, restoring his sight (Luke 18.35-43; Mark 10.46-52). In Matthew these are two blind beggars (Matthew 20.29-34). Likewise a short tax-collector, called Zacchaeus, climbs a tree, Christ asking him, as a fellow ' son of Abraham' to come down that they may dine together that day (Luke 19.1-10).

Myra Luxmore (friend to Gerard Manley Hopkins and to my Mother Foundress, Agnes Mason , C.H.F.), studied in the Holy Land, painting this in 1912 from direct observation of the Galilee region. Bartimaeus is just about to regain his sight, not yet having seen the shot green brown blue of his garb.

Finally, the one who always went on foot, except as a baby going into an Egyptian exile, calls not for a horse but a donkey upon which to enter Jerusalem, fulfilling Zechariah's prophecy (Luke 19.29-40; Matthew 21.1-17; Mark 11.1-11; Zechariah 9.9). There, in the Temple, he overturns the money-changers' tables, teaching there and praying. While the chief priests and scribes seek ways to kill him (Luke 19.45-48; Mark 11.15-33). They question him. He asks them by what authority John baptised in the wilderness. He tells them the parable of the vineyard, the tenants killing the beloved son, speaking of the stumbling block becoming the cornerstone despite the scandal. They ask him about the payment of taxes, he asks them to show him a coin, they produce one with the emperor's head, illegal to have in the precints of the Temple. The Sadducees, not believing in the resurrection, also trick him with the question about the woman who was married to seven brothers in turn, producing no children. Christ tells them that we are like angels and are children of God, being children of the Resurrection, beyond marrying and being given in marriage. And speaks too of Moses and the Burning Bush in the presence of the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the living, to whom these are all alive. He next queries Psalm 109/110 and the Messiah as David's Son. And warns against hypocritical scribes wearing long robes, being important in the synagogues and at banquets, while devouring widows ' houses (Luke 20).

In Matthew, Christ preaches a parable of great relevance to our themes. The Kingdom of Heaven is like ten virgins, ten bridesmaids , waiting for the Bridegroom. Five foolish ones lack oil for their lamps, the five wise virgins being prepared. In Judaism much care is taken that all be in readiness for the Sabbath and for the Lord of the Sabbath, of which we are the Bride . At midnight the shout goes up, ' The Bridegroom is Here'. The foolish ask the wise for oil, who tell them to go and buy it in the now-closed shops, and who, when they return, asking that the door be opened, ' Ephphatha! ', they find it closed against them (Matthew 25.1-12). For Jesus' audience there would be the knowledge, here, of the Jewish woman 's need for preparedness ahead of time for the Sabbath, which she begins with lighting and blessing the Sabbath lamps, in Jesus' day, lamps using oil, and saying ' Blessed art thou, King of the Universe, who bidst us light these Sabbath lights'. Similarly Mary was ready, Martha not, for their Bridegroom, Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, at Bethany.

Christ next notes a widow putting all her coins into the collection trumpet in the Temple, saying her gift is greater than the rich men's ostentatious but partial offerings. Some praise the Temple being built of such great stones by Herod, for whom families like those of Mary and Joseph were being bled white, and he warns of its coming destruction, A.D. 70 by the Emperors Titus and Vespasian. The Herods, not true Jews, had allied themselves with the Caesars, using Judaism against its own people, the priestly caste exempt from taxes to Temple and to Caesar, but the laity forced to pay these exorbitantly. It was a recipe for disaster, as Jesus knew, but not those admiring the great stones, the stumbling blocks, the scandals, to God (Luke 21.1-28; Mark 12.41-13.2). One can visualize those scenes of the Imperial Triumph sculpted upon the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, where the table of the bread from which David and his Jewish soldiers ate, and the trumpets and the seven-branched candlestick are born by Roman soldiers through it, following the Sack of Jerusalem.

Judas (unless Judas, the one outsider among the Twelve, is scapegoated for this act by the other disciples, the one lie in the Gospel), then goes to the priests and the Temple police to conspire with them as to how Jesus may be captured in exchange for money. Jesus tells his disciples to seek an Upper Room for the Passover Feast, presaging the Heavenly Banquet, and there he blesses the wine, fruit of the vine, and the bread, his body born in David's Beth+lehem (House of Bread). The disciples begin to bicker as to who is the betrayer, and as to who is the greater, while he rebukes them saying the greatest is become as the youngest, the leader, as the one who serves. This is the Passover, begun by a child who asks, 'Why is this night special above all nights?' He tells Simon Peter that Satan is testing him, and that the cock will not crow this day until he has denied him three times. They then adjourn to the Mount of Olives, to watching and prayer, but during which the disciples sleep, at Gethsemane, followed by the arrest, Peter's aggression, cutting off the ear of Malchus with his sword, Christ restoring and healing it. A young man follows, wearing only a linen cloth, who may be John Mark in whose house was an Upper Room, and who could that night have asked the Passover question, and who has to flee naked from the soldiers (Mark 14.51; Acts 12.12). Peter stands at a distance in the courtyard of the high priest's house where earlier Christ had been bought and sold by the betrayer, and is now recognized and rebuked by a servant girl at the fire and by others because of his inferior Galilean dialect, the cock then crowing, Peter leaving and weeping bitterly (Luke 22; Matthew 26; Mark 14, the account also being in John). In Matthew 26.69-73, it is two serving girls who rebuke him. Also in Matthew we are told that the rejected money from Judas is used to buy a potters' field for a burial ground for foreigners (27.7)

Christ is flogged and tortured, then tried, next brought before Pilate, both courts hearing the claim that he is Messiah. Pilate next sends him to Herod, for Jesus is Galilean and under that jurisdiction. Herod mocks him as a king, placing on him a purple robe, sending him back to Pilate. The people demand that Christ be Crucified, Bar-Abbas (Son of the Father, his shadow self), a rebel and insurgent, be released. Pilate's wife attempts to prevent Christ's execution, because of her dream of his innocence, interrupting the very trial itself, for Roman women could speak in public, though Greek women were to be silent (Matthew 27.19). On the road to Calvary, Simon the Cyrene (from Libya, an outsider, an agricultural labourer, likely a member of the Freedmen's Synagogue, and named in all the Synoptic Gospels, Mark even speaking of him as father of Alexander and Rufus, 15.21) helps him carry the cross. Many women follow, grieving, Christ addressing them as ' Daughters of Jerusalem' . On the cross he is flanked by two thieves, the Good Thief being told he will dine with him in Paradise this night. Mark alone tells us of his cry, ' Eloi, eloi, lema sabacthani!' , the soldiers thinking he is calling for Elijah (15.34-39). The Galilee women watch, grieving. Joseph of Arimathea begs for the body, placing it in his own tomb, with the help of these women from Galilee.These women are named (Matthew 27.56 calling them Mary Magdalen, ' Mary the mother of James and Joseph ' , and the mother of James and John , Zebedee's sons; Mark 15.40 giving them as Mary Magdalen , Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses , and Salome ) as Mary Magdalen , Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (Luke 24.10).

They had been named so earlier in the three Gospels. In Luke, 'The twelve were with him, as well as some women . . . Mary, called Magdalen . . . and Joanna , the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna , and many others , who provided for them out of their resources' (Luke 8.1-3). While Matthew and Mark had given these names as Jesus' family, ' Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary ? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?', in Mark, the name being 'Joses' (Matthew 13.55, Mark 6.3, Jude 1). This gives us in all, according to the Gospel accounts: Mary, Joseph the carpenter's wife and mother of James and Joses; Mary Magdalen ; Joanna, Chuza's wife; Susanna; Salome, Zebedee's wife; Martha and Mary of Bethany, and in John 19.25, in addition, Mary's sister , and Mary, wife to Clopas, bringing the total to eight or nine named women , among many others.

In Matthew 27-28, Mary Magdalen and the ' other Mary', the mother of James and Joseph, in Mark given first as ' Mary the mother of Joses' (15.47), then as ' Mary the mother of James' (16.1), first mourn at the Tomb, then return to it after the Sabbath, seeing and hearing the angel, who gives them the Good News to give to the Disciples, and as they are running there, they meet Jesus himself, holding him by the feet, who repeats the Good News they are to give now to his 'brothers', 'adelphois mou', not 'disciples', 'mathetois mou' (Matthew 28.10). They are apostles not so much to the apostles as to his family. (We also hear of the 'Lord's brother' either explicitly or by implication after the Gospels, in Acts 21.18, 1 Corinthians 9.5, 15.7, Galatians 1.19, Jude 1). Next, two journeying to Emmaus, one of them named Cleopas and related to one of the women at the tomb (John 19.25), are talking with a stranger who joins them, and they speak of the astounding message of the women (Luke 24.22-24). At which point the stranger, the Other, whom they have not recognized, tells them they are fools and 'slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared' , for not believing the women or the prophets. They do not recognize Him until the breaking of the bread, which they then tell the assembled disciples in Jerusalem, He joining them. (But Paul says Christ appeared first to Cephas (Peter), then James, who in his texts is the 'Lord's brother', then the apostles, then Paul, omitting the appearances to the women as not counting, 1 Corinthians 15.7.)


Matthew's Gospel appears originally composed in Hebrew, then translated into Greek. Mark's Gospel was possibly composed by Peter's disciple, John Mark, is the shortest, yet contains most of Christ's own words in Aramaic. Luke's Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles textually are presented as by Paul's physician friend, Luke. John's Gospel appears to be by a disciple of John, of the Johannine school which met with considerable opposition from Jews, paradoxically because it remained more closely as a sect within Judaism, while Paul and Luke proselytised amongst Gentiles. Luke and John are the most sympathetic to women, Matthew and Paul the least. John's Gospel adds powerful tales of Jesus's ministry with women, not present in the Synoptic texts.

In John 2 Christ performs his first miracle, at a wedding in Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother is present, Jesus and his disciples being invited to the banquet, and she says to him, 'They have no wine'. He replies, seemingly rudely, 'Woman , what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.' 'Do whatever he tells you', she says to the servants. Jesus tells the servant to fill six huge stone water jars, used for the Jewish rites of purification, with water, then to take it to the chief steward of the feast. It is the best wine. In Judaism following pollution, such as touching the dead or walking on a tomb or blood or menstruating or childbirth, purification with water was necessary, the entire body being submerged. John the Baptist was using that concept of immersion in water as purification for Baptism. In a sense this sign, this miracle, Jesus performs runs counter to John the Baptist's Puritanism, turning his cousin's work inside out. Jesus' act hallows wine and men and women becoming one flesh in marriage. And it is a woman, his mother , who prompts this miracle of the wine. Just as later it is a child who prompts the miracle of the bread. The two together creating the family, the little church, the Eucharist, with Jesus.

In John 3 Nicodemus comes to Christ by night, secretly, asking about the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells him he must be born from above to see that Kingdom. Nicodemus asks, ' How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother 's womb and be born?' Jesus replies, 'I tell you very truly, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh, and what is born of Spirit is spirit'. In a sense the discourse is upon death as birth, the prayer a Jewish child is taught by his mother to say each night, that Christ then says on the Cross, 'Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my breath, my spirit [ruah]' . Time going backwards through one's umbilical cords, back to the one flesh of Adam and Eve, as Bar-Adam, as Son of Man, Son of God, the One Body of Christ, unravelling all evil that has been done through time.

The disciples and Jesus next come to John the Baptist who proclaims that he who has the Bride is the Bridegroom, that John must now decrease, while Christ increase (3.29-30). In the next chapter, John 4, Jesus is passing through Samaria, and at noonday is seated at Jacob's Well, famous for its scenes in the Hebrew Scriptures, where Isaac and met and wooed and won Rebecca and Jacob had met and wooed Rachel and instead won Leah . Since that day division had come between Jew and Samaritan, the Samaritans still worshipping in the mountains in the manner of ancient Hebrews, and not observing the newer Judaism of the Temple. Samaritans to this day have some of the oldest Pentateuch scrolls. A Samaritan woman comes to the well and Jesus asks her for water. She is astonished for these closely-related Semitic peoples intensely segregate themselves from each other, not using anything in common. He tells her he can give her living water from God, she remarks that he has no bucket and the well is very deep, and speaks of their ancestor Jacob watering his flocks from it. Jesus tells her to call her husband. She explains she has no husband. He answers she has had five husbands, and the man she is now with is not married to her. She proclaims him a prophet. And asks if she should worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. He replies that it is not needful to worship God in any particular place, but in spirit and truth. She says she knows the Messiah, the Christ, is coming. He says, ' I am he'. The disciples return, shocked at this discourse, the woman - as apostle - meanwhile racing back to the city without her waterjar to proclaim that the Messiah is here. He stayed in that city two days, converting many Samaritans.

In John 8, Jesus is being tested in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Scribes and the Pharisees bring before him a woman caught in adultery , noting that Moses commanded that she be stoned. In silence Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. They continued questioning him. He straightened up and said, ' Let anyone who is without sin cast the first stone' . Then bent back down to his writing on the ground. One by one each left, beginning with the elders. Finally, he looked up, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, sir'. Jesus said, 'Neither do I. Go and sin no more' . A powerful story. But one needing to be replaced in its context. In Jesus' day women were not stoned. Though there was a ritual used to test them at the Temple, the priest writing with ink made from dust lines from the Hebrew Scriptures, the woman having to eat the document. If she were innocent no harm came to her . If she was guilty, her womb infected. Jesus' act of writing is a priestly act, a learned act, in connection with adultery. But which he has turned inside out and against, not the woman, but the men.

In John 11, we learn that a certain Lazarus of Bethany was ill and that he is brother to Mary and Martha . We are told in a parenthesis that it was this Mary who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters send for Jesus but he dawdles on the way, coming too late, though he loved Lazarus. On their arrival Lazarus has been in the tomb four days. Martha goes to Mary to tell her of the Teacher's arrival. They go to him, kneeling at his feet, as he approaches the Tomb, weeping. Martha warns, 'He will smell' . Jesus says, 'Lazarus, come out!' And Lazarus, bound in graveclothes, comes out. Jesus says, 'Unbind him and let him go!' In John 12, Jesus returns to Bethany six days before the Passover and at a dinner Lazarus gives, Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of nard, anointing Jesus' feet, wiping them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas is enraged and plots the betrayal.

In John 13, Jesus himself performs the act performed by Mary , taking off his outer robe, tying a servant's towel around himself, and washing the feet of his disciples. He stoops to conquer hierarchies established through greed and envy, Martha grumbling at Mary , James and John quarrelling over who is the most important. 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble' (James 4.6; 1 Peter 5.5), is a lovely phrase used by James and Peter in the Catholic Epistles to describe humility, such as we see performed by John the Baptist baptising Christ, Christ washing his Disciples' feet.

In John 16.21, Christ says, ' When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world', comparing the sorrow and joy his disciples will have to that pain and birth. In John 18 we meet again with the story of Peter and the serving woman's rebuke. It is in every Gospel.

In John 19, is the Crucifixion. ' Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother , and his mother's sister ,and Mary, the wife of Clopas , and Mary Magdalen . When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother , 'Woman , here is your son'. Then he said to the disciple, 'Here is your Mother'. And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home'. Tradition has the 'disciple whom he loved' be John, Mary and John standing by the cross, giving us this essay's title. In the Synoptic Gospels the women disciples watch from a distance, the male disciples all having fled. It is then Mary, mother of the still-living James and Joses, named several times elsewhere as Jesus' brothers, and Mary Magdalen who function like mother and wife , tending the dead body, one flesh with theirs.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus together in John come with spices to take the body for burial. In John 20, it is only Mary Magdalen who comes to the Tomb, while still dark, following the Sabbath, to find the stone gone, and goes next to Peter and John. Peter and John race to the Tomb, finding only the Lazarus wrappings left there. And return home. But Mary Magdalen stays, weeping. Two angels say, 'Woman , why are you weeping?' Then she sees one she thinks is a gardener, and protests to him this grave robbery. Jesus says to her, ' Mary '. She falls at his feet saying in Hebrew, 'Rabbouni', which means Teacher. He tells her not to hold on to him. She goes with the Good News to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord'.


Luke's Gospel continues into his Acts of the Apostles with these same disciples, women as well as men, and his brothers, as daily in prayer in the Temple and the Upper Room blessing God. Luke gives them as, 'Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James, All these were constantly dovoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women , including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers' (Acts 1.13-14). Peter narrates Judas' death, and Matthias is elected in his place. Then, at Pentecost, 'they were altogether in one place '. The wind and flames come upon all and Peter rushes out, reciting the words of Joel to the crowd present in Jerusalem:

Peter ends by saying ' Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyong whom the Lord our God calls to him' (2.38-39). And that day 'three thousand persons were added, devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers' (2.41-42). Peter's words in Luke's Acts, quoting Joel, balance Jesus' words in Luke's Gospel, quoting Isaiah.

The Apostles, apart from Saul/Paul, were married men with families. The Early Church had women teach women , men teach men. The first transgression is by a man and his wife, Ananias and Sapphira, who withold part of the price of their land and who die (5.1-11). The account continues speaking of the 'great numbers of both men and women ' who come to believe (5.14). Indeed, when Saul is persecuting the Christians, it is both men and women whom he commits to prison (8.3). He later himself confesses to this, 'I persecuted the Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me' (22.4).

Later Philip encounters an Ethiopian eunuch, official to Queen Candace , sitting in a chariot reading Isaiah, whom he comes to baptize (8.26-39). In Joppa, Peter raises from the dead Tabitha, a 'Disciple ' ('mathetria), her name in Greek, Dorcas , who had done much charity. This Greek word for Disciple, mathetos, mathetria , means one who is taught and who teaches. It may be for what he had considered illegal teaching amongst women that Saul/Paul had imprisoned so many women disciples of the Way. Tabitha is laid out in her Upper Room, surrounded by the weeping widows (widows were consecrated in the Early Church, and permitted, since past menopause, to sit by and serve the altar, being spoken of as the 'altars of the church'), who show him tunics and other clothing Dorcas had made. Peter sends them from the room, raises Tabitha, now using her Hebrew, rather than Greek, name, then summons back the saints and widows (9.36-43).

Back in Jerusalem Peter is constantly being imprisoned, the disciple James, John's brother, already executed by Herod. On one occasion Peter is released by an angel from prison, and comes 'to the house of Mary, the mother of John , whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying' , likely in the Upper Room (12.12).  We hear of women having churches in their houses, such as this Mary, John Mark's mother, in Jerusalem; Tabitha/Dorcas, in Joppa; Prisca and Aquila, in exile from Rome, first in Corinth, then in Ephesus; Nympha, in Colossae or Laodicia; and Lydia, from Thyatira in Philippi. A tradition that continues with St Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome. We have earlier had a maid servant rebuke Peter for denying Christ. This time we have a maid servant, named Rhoda, or Rose, be so astounded at hearing him, that she leaves him standing outside the locked gate to go and proclaim the good news. And, once he has convinced the gathering he is no illusion, in a hysteron proton, Peter asks that they give this news to James (is this John's brother, James, son of Zebedee and Salome, executed by Herod at the beginning of this chapter, or is this the other James, whom the Greek Scriptures have be Mary 's son, Jesus' brother?), and to the believers (12.17). For in Matthew 13.55 and 27.56 and Mark 6.3 and 16.1, James is spoken of as Jesus' brother; in Galatians 1.19 as the 'brother of the Lord'; whom Paul meets in Acts 21.18, with Peter; and whom he mentions, 1 Corinthians 9.5, 15.7, and who appears in all the post-Gospel citations in a leadership role over the disciples in Jerusalem, as here in Acts 12.12. The Greek Testament speaks frequently of Christ's brothers and sisters and mother, who appear to come to join the disciples, being three overlapping groups, disciples, women, siblings. But the Church holds that Mary had one child, one son, only.

In Antioch we learn of Simeon, called Niger (who may be the Simon of Cyrene who carried Christ's cross, Luke 23.34), and Lucius (who could be Luke), both of Cyrene in Libya, with Barnabas and Saul (13.1). Earlier we had learned this group had had even their own Synagogue in Jerusalem, the Synagogue of the Freedmen, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicians and Asians (6.9), and which had attacked Stephen, bringing on his martyrdom. Saul was implicated with them then (8.1), and later tells Felix his province is Cilicia (23.34). It is possible that these fanatic converts and proselytes to Judaism had next converted to Christianity, and that their outlook is more Greek than Jewish, causing clashes between the two perspectives that likewise split apart Judaeo-Christianity. In these pages, this group of men, travelling about a largely Greek, rather than Jewish, culture, no longer notice or speak about women, except in their greetings in Epistles.

Luke appears to join them on their voyage to Macedonia from Troas (16.11). And immediately women again make their appearance. On the Sabbath, in Philippi, outside the gate by the river the men sit down in a place of prayer speaking to women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a dealer in purple cloth. She and her household ask to be baptised and she gives them hospitality (16.11-15). Next the group meets a slave girl with the spirit of divination, annoying Paul, who exorcises her . The girl's owners are furious at losing their profits and have Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned. As they pray and sing hymns at midnight an earthquake releases them, the goaler attempting suicide, Paul restraining him, and the goaler washes their wounds and he and his entire family, his entire household, are converted and baptised. The magistrates likewise free them, now knowing of Paul's Roman citizenship, pleading with them to leave. They return to Lydia's house to encourage the new Christians there, then leave (16.16-40).

In Thessalonica they preached in the Synagogue winning the support of some of them, and ' a great many of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women' (17.4). But friction developed amongst the Jews, so they left for Beroea, where their reception was far warmer, the Hebrew Scriptures eagerly being examinined concerning this Good News, many coming to believe and not a few Greek women and men of high standing, the Greek text tells us (17.12). But the Thessalonian Jews come to Beroea to stir up trouble. Paul and Luke next travelled to Athens. Paul argues in the Synagogue and the Agora and on the Areopagus, being deeply troubled about the pagan idols. In his sermon on the Areopagus he speaks of 'the inscription on an altar to an unknown god' (17.23), about which Julian of Norwich will also write in the Showing of Love. Paul states, within sight of the Temple of the Parthenon, that God needs no temples made by human hands since he gives to all people life and breath and all things, that we are his offspring, his children. The sermon converts several, including Dionysius the Areopagite, about whom Julian writes, and a woman named Damaris (17.34).

Next Paul and Luke come to Corinth where they find Aquila and Priscilla his wife (18.2), the latter of whom in these accounts gradually becomes prominent as Prisca, and who may have written the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is clearly not of Paul's composing. Aquila and Priscilla had fled from Rome under Claudius. They and Paul together were all tent-makers during the week to support themselves, Paul teaching in the Synagogue on the Sabbaths (18.2-4). Next this group sails to Cenchrae and Ephesus, Priscilla now named before her husband Aquila (18.18). Paul goes on to Jerusalem. Apollos from Alexandria, already knowing something of the Way of the Lord, now joins the group in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila teaching him further in Christian doctrine, in that order, Priscilla clearly being a disciple, a mathetria like Dorcas/Tabitha , and even here to men, though she and her husband take care to do it privately, taking Apollos aside, likely into their house which is also their church (18.24-26). Then Apollos goes with this new training to Corinth, sharing it publicly (18.27-19.1). Paul next returns to Ephesus and begins to teach what they now call the Way intensively in a lecture hall for two years (19.1-23). But the silver smiths, profitting from images of Diana , break out against the teaching of the Way, Paul deciding to leave. He plans to go to Jerusalem but is told by the Spirit not to do so, so leaves the Christians at Tyre. 'All of them, with wives and children, escorted us outside the city. Then we knelt down on the beach and prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home ' (21.5-6).

At Caesarea Paul and Luke come to 'the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy' (21.8-9). Thus we have met widows of the church about Tabitha/Dorcas in Joppa. Now we find four virgin prophetesses in Caesarea, far nearer Nazareth than Jerusalem. Then, in Jerusalem, Paul is in deep trouble, imprisoned, on trial by the high priest and the council of elders, and a prisoner of the Roman centurions, both Temple and Caesar working together to keep the peace. Paul's sister's son learns of a plot to kill him and tells this to the tribune who arranges for Paul to be shipped to Caesarea for safety (23.16-22), for trial before the governor Felix. After some days Felix summons Paul to converse concerning the Way and Christ Jesus with himself and his Jewish wife Drusilla , and does so repeatedly. The following governor, Festus, accepts Paul's appeal to be tried before the Emperor in Rome, but not before having Paul appear before King Agrippa and his Queen Bernice (25.23). Paul ends his defense before them by jokingly praying that all of them, the King, the governor, the Queen and those seated with them, become Christian like him, with the exception of his chains. At this they all agree he should be free - except that he had appealed to the Emperor. So following a dangerous winter sea-voyage with Luke he came to Rome, where he preached to Jew and Gentile about the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.


The first Epistle Paul writes to the Romans, not yet having reached them. He is likely in Corinth, planning on going to Jerusalem, then to Spain, visiting Rome on the way there, this letter being preparation for that visit. He may have shared a copy of this letter, sending it as well to Ephesus, for in it he highly commends the Deacon Phoebe. He has also completed the task of collecting funds from Gentile Christians in Asia for Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, largely to support the poor among the ' saints' , the ' widows ' of the church, who had liturgical functions and who were on the pay roll. Paul notes that a woman is bound to her husband in marriage, but upon his death is free (7.1-3). This gave the right to widows to work for the church and to participate in its liturgy, even to own its Upper Rooms and to give hospitality to disciples. I have heard it argued by a Jewish woman scholar that Mary had to be married, but her marriage not consummated, to be free to become the mother of the Messiah, prior to that she belonged to her father, following that to her husband. Similarly, in Judaism, as a widow , a woman is free. Then, concerning the Spirit, Paul uses the obstetrical image of the whole creation groaning in the birth pangs concerning our adoption, our birth, as children of God, heirs of Christ. God becomes mother, we daughters and sons (8.22-39). Next he speaks of Sarah and Rebecca, for one's Judaism is through the mother , not the father (9.6-12). And he evokes Hosea on Israel as his prostitute/bride (9.25-26). He does not speak so much of women , as of that other other needing reconciliation, the Gentile Christian with the Jewish Christian.

He concludes with greetings, commending Deacon Phoebe, of the church of Cenchrae, perhaps to the church at Ephesus, perhaps to that at Rome; he greets Prisca and Aquila, in that order, who may have returned to Rome, and speaks of the church in their house; greets Mary , who has worked so hard amongst you; greets his relatives, among them, Junia, an Apostle , who was in prison with him (Junia , we learn, from another Early Christian source, was indomitable) and who had converted before him; and names other women , Tryphaena; Tryphosa; Persis; Rufus' mother , 'a mother to me also'; Julia; Nereus' sister ; and Olympas, speaking of their work for the Lord. That there are more women named in the Epistle to the Romans could be because Roman and Hebrew culture both accorded greater respect to women than did the Greek culture of Corinth and Ephesus.

Then we have the two Epistles to the Corinthians, of which the first likely preceded that to the Romans. He writes of division, some claiming to be of Paul's school, others, of Apollos's, others, of Cephas', others, of Christ's, when all are of Christ's school. He speaks of Christianity's paradox, that it is not about wisdom, but foolishness, not about power, but weakness, that it is a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called it is God's power and God's wisdom, as Julian of Norwich also notes. He speaks of feeding them with milk, like a nursing mother, their not being ready for more solid fare. He speaks about the body as temple of the spirit, that in sex two, even a man with a prostitute , become one flesh, and that it is best that the body be for the Lord than elsewhere. The wife and the husband each owe to the other the marriage debt, being one. To the unmarried and widowed he suggest they remain like himself, unmarried. If you are a slave, do not be concerned, for a slave is a freed person in the Lord, just as the one who is free is a slave of Christ. He speaks of virgins consecrated to the Lord. He notes that only he is unmarried amongst the disciples, the Lord's brothers, and Peter, all these others being accompanied by believing wives (9.5-6). He speaks of the cup and the bread making us all one (10.16-17). He adopts the Greek concept of women as inferior where he says that man is the image and reflection of God, but woman is the reflection of man (11.7). He speaks of the need for women to have a symbol of authority, of respect, a veil, upon her head; while men are to be bareheaded. Then he returns to speaking of the Eucharist. One suspects the material in between is interpolated. He states that in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and we were all made to drink of one Spirit (12.13). And that you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (12.27). He asks for peaceableness in speaking. Then Paul or the interpolator commands that women be silent in churches (14.33-36). Paul reveals himself in this text as one who understands Christ's openness to the other, the Gentile, the one who is enslaved. But not as one much concerned with women , apart from keeping them in their place.

But he does end it with greetings, from Aquila and Prisca , in that order, and we recall that this Epistle actually precedes the others, with the church in their house (1Corinthians 16.19). Even Luke and Paul are capable of change, Luke's Acts of the Apostles and Paul's Epistles first naming Aquila before Priscilla , then naming Prisca before her husband, Aquila (Acts 18.2, Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth from Rome; Acts 18.26, Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus teach Apollos; 1 Corinthians 16.19, ' Aquila and Priscilla together with the church in their house', now in Ephesus; Romans 16.3, 'Greet Prisca and Aquila . . . also the church in their house', perhaps back in Rome ; and 2 Timothy 3.19, 'Greet Prisca and Aquila'). All this further reinforces the scriptural evidence that churches, as meeting places in Upper Rooms, were presided over, even owned, by women , that pattern in Acts at Pentecost begun with Mary, Jesus' mother in Jerusalem (Acts 1.13-14), and then the house of John Mark's mother (Acts 12.12); reflected in Tabitha/Dorcas in Joppa (Acts 9.36-43); with Lydia in Philippi (Acts 16.16-40); with Prisca and Aquila in Corinth, Ephesus, perhaps also Rome (Acts 18.2, 18, 26; 1 Corinthians 16.19; Romans 16.19; 2 Timothy 19); continued through 'Nympha and the church in her house' in Colossae or Laodicia (Colossans 4.15); and in the lady of the church of John's Second Epistle.

2 Corinthians takes up the obstetrical theme of Romans 8, adding to it self-referential material about our bodies as temporal tents, groaning in this life for birthing into the eternal one (5.1-5). Paul speaks of the problem of clergy abuse, ' Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness' (11.14-15). This letter is fragmented, it lacks the usual greetings to men and women of the churches.

Galatians continues a theme of the previous Epistles, of being a fool for Christ. Here Paul is combatting Judaizing tendencies from Peter, from James and from John, pleading for the Gentile as Christian. He describes Peter in Antioch first being open, then closed, following a delegation from James, and his challenge to Peter (2.11-14). It is in this Epistle he states that all are one, baptized into Christ, having clothed ourselves into Christ, no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer male and female , for all are one in Christ Jesus (3.27-28). He goes on to say God sent a Son, born of a woman , in order to redeem us under the law, so that we may be God's children, with the Spirit of the Son in our hearts, crying 'Abba, Father!' (4.4-7). He goes on to say to these children that he himself is in the labours of childbirth until Christ be formed in them (4.19). He continues by noting the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, '"You shall love your neighbour as yourself"' (5.14). He ends 'For neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!' (6.15).

In Ephesians, Paul asks that wives obey their husbands, husbands love their wives, for they are one as the Church and Christ are one (5.22-33). And this passage implies that the Church is similarly bound to obey Christ, not to depart from his teachings, nor from his respect for women , but to cleave to him, the two becoming one, in a great mystery. Similarly fathers and children, slaves and masters, are to obey and love each other, having one Heavenly Father and Master whom all serve and love.

In Philippians is the echo of the Messiah as Suffering Servant, where Christ does not seek to override God, as had Satan and Cain and Herod, but instead empties himself, taking the form of a servant (2.5-11). At its conclusion Paul urges two women, Euodia and Syntyche, in the church in Philippi to be reconciled from their quarrel, taking on the mind of Christ, noting that they had struggled long and hard with Paul in the work of the Gospel, together with Clement and his other companions, and he begs those reading this letter to help these women in this. His comments speak of them as being in equality with the men on the mission, a comment that is likely valid if these women were responsible for teaching women candidates their catechesis in preparation for baptism as was true of the Early Church's practice.

Colossians repeats the oneness in Christ. 'In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncricumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all in and in all!' (3.11) It also repeats, ' Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly' (3.18-19). Continuing with children and parents, slaves and masters. Paul sends this letter to both the church in Colossae and that in Laodicia and encloses greetings to 'Nympha and the church in her house' (4.15).

First Thessalonians, which may be Paul's earliest surviving letter, though with later interpolations, has Paul speak of himself as like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children (2.7), then as being a father to his children (2.11), then as orphaned from them (2.17). Second Thessalonians is not relevant to our discussion.

The Pastoral Letters to Timothy and Titus, which may be pseudonymous, state that women should dress soberly, be silent, and not teach men (1 Timothy 2.9-15). Bishops may marry only once, manage their household and their children well, and not be a recent convert (3.1-7). Deacons, who include women , likewise may marry only once, manage their households and their children well (3.8-13). He counsels that Timothy not listen to old wives ' tales (4.7). He asks that Timothy study the scriptures and teach. He tells him to speak to older men as to a father, to younger men as to brothers, to older women as to mothers, to younger women as to sisters . And especially to honour true widows . It is in these verses we see that widows , without Christian relatives, were to be supported by the churches where they carried out the liturgy in supplication and prayer day and night (5.2-16). Indeed, the collection Paul took up for the poor and the widows in Jerusalem was in part to pay for these services they performed on behalf of the church. Elders (who were both men and women to their respective audiences), were to labour in preaching and teaching and, like widows, to receive recompense from the churches. Slaves were to honour their masters, masters, their slaves.

The Second Epistle to Timothy, which again may be pseudonymous, mentions Timothy's grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice, who converted from Judaism to Christianity. One's Judaism is inherited through the maternal line. Timothy's father was Greek. He ends with greetings to Prisca and Aquila, another adding greetings to a Claudia. The Epistle to Titus mentions that elders and bishops marry only once, raising good children, older women to teach younger women to be good wives and love their children, while slaves are to be obedient. Paul also sends a letter to Philemon in Colossae by the slave Onesimus, who had freed himself from him and whom Paul now returns to his master, counseling that he be treated as his Christian brother. He opens with the greeting to Philemon and ' to Apphia our sister' (1.2).


Any comparison, especially of the Greek, clearly demonstrates that the Epistle to the Hebrews is not by Paul. Both its Greek is excellent and the profundity of its Hebrew exegesis, which is far more a product of Alexandria, than of Cilicia. That exegesis is similar to the non-canonical Epistle of Barnabas. It is thought by some that Apollos or Prisca could be its author. Its matrix appears to be in schools of learning beyond the level of mere catechesis (6.1-3). Particularly appealing is its use of King Melchisadek as Priest/King as model for Christ and which one can compare with the theology recently written by Australian Aboriginal Elders on this theme, for the inclusion of plural cultures and their riches, for it is the King Priest Melchisadek of Canaan's offering to the Hebrew Abraham of bread and wine (Genesis 14.17-30, Psalm 110.4) that gave to Judaism's lay families the Sabbath Eve blessing of the fruit of the vine and the work of human hands, of the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands, to become in turn Christ's Eucharist. Whoever writes the Epistle to the Hebrews deeply quarries Judaism, cross-referencing throughout the text, yet to argue for pluralism, and for Christ as the one High Priest for all. For the Old fulfilled in the New, equally present. (Earliest Christianity had no priests, only one High Priest, Christ. The Eucharist was carried out by the Bishop and his Deacons; baptism similarly, in the latter case because of the nudity with women deacons for women catechumens . As well, there were prophets, elders, virgins, and widows who were women.) Amongst all the examples of those who lived and died by faith in the Old Covenant ' Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace' (11.31), speaking also of Sarah 's paradoxical barrenness (11.11), and the text honours women who endured through faith (11.35), these being part of the 'great cloud of witnesses' (12.1). The writer speaks of us as like disciplined children, loved by God, much in Julian of Norwich's language (12.5-11). Chapter 13 asks that hospitality be shown the stranger, that those in prison be visited, and 'Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled' (13.4). It ends with a reference to those from Italy (perhaps the exiles from Rome, Prisca and Aquila), who send greetings (13.24).

The Epistle attributed to James is very different in character from those of Paul. James, the leader of the Jerusalem Church, is generally spoken of or implied as being the Lord's brother (Matthew 13.55, 27.56; Mark 6.3, 16.1; Acts 12.7, 21.18; Galatians 1.19; 1 Corinthians 9.5, 15.7, Jude 1). This Epistle is cast in that mould. It has much wisdom in its theology, 'No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one' (1.13). He repeats Christ's observation that we 'must hear the Word of God and do it' (Luke 8.19-21, James 1.22-25), said once in the hearing of his mother, his siblings and himself, and reported so in three Gospel accounts. He speaks of the need before God the Father to care for orphans and widows in their distress (1.27). He tells us not to honour the one in fine clothes while despising the one in rags (2.1-7). He says clearly in the Greek 'If a brother or sister [ adelphos e adelphe ] is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill", and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?' (2.15-17). He gives the example of the prostitute Rahab (Jesus and James' Gentile ancestress, Matthew 1.5), 'justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road' (2.25) . 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble' (4.6). 'Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you' (4.10). Of the two minds, Paul's and James', it is James' that is closest to Christ's.

The First Epistle of Peter is likely written after Peter's lifetime. It is written from Rome to the churches in diaspora from Jerusalem in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. It uses the image of the rejected stone, the scandal, the stumbling block that becomes the cornerstone, of Christ, of ourselves, living stones of the Royal Priesthood (2.4-9). It also uses the passage from Hosea comparing Israel to the Prophet's unfaithful wife . He asks that Christian slaves obey their masters, as did Christ endure his sufferings for our redemption, 'by his wounds you have been healed' (2.18-25). Christian wives similarly need to honour their pagan husbands, Addressing them as ' Sarah's daughters', he says that Christian wives similarly need to honour their pagan husbands . (3.6). Husbands are to honour their wives 'since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life' (3.7). The writer speaks as an Elder, asking for humility from and for all, 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble' (5.5). He ends by speaking of Rome as but their Sister Church (5.13). There are far more similarities between the Epistles of James and Peter than between any of the Pauline Epistles. The Second Epistle of Peter is very likely pseudonymous, pretending its eye-witnessing of the Transfiguration.

The First Epistle of John is likely a letter by an Elder in John's tradition amongst the Johannine communities. The Second Epistle of John by the same author is addressed as if to a lady and her children and as from her sister, but these forms of addresses here apply to churches, originally in women's houses, as we see with Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12.12) and with 'Nympha and the church in her house' (Colossans 4.15). The Third Epistle of John is a simple letter of introduction. It continues the imagery of the church as a family, its members as its children. The Epistle of Jude speaks of its author as brother of James, and thus of Christ (Matthew 13.55, Mark 6.3). Again, it is likely pseudonymous while according with the early and scriptural tradition of Christ's mother , brothers and sisters joining with the disciples in the leadership of the original Church. The author warns against false teachers in the churches, like the false angels, like Sodom and Gomorrah, defiling the flesh, defying authority, devoid of the Spirit.

Paul tends to espouse celibacy, Christ and the circle close to him centre upon the family. The pagan Greek world degrades women , the Judaeo-Christian one hallows the marriage, the family, of men, women, and children.


The Apocalypse of John is not written in the Greek of John's Gospel. In it a man named John writes to the seven churches in Asia, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea from the island of Patmos. As in the Epistle to the Hebrews the author is cognisant of the now-destroyed Temple's furnishings, the seven trumpets, the seven lamps. The Son of Man, amongst the prophetic epistles he delivers to the seven churches, associates the church of Thyatira with a false woman teacher whom he calls Jezebel . Plagues now smite the earth, like those of Exodus. There are two faithful witnesses, like two olive trees, controlling them (11.4). In Chapter 12, the Woman Clothed with the Sun , with the Moon under her feet, and on her head a Crown of Twelve Stars gives birth to a child, about to be devoured by the Dragon, but saved by God, while she flees to the wilderness. She is countered by the Whore of Babylon of Chapter 17, clothed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold and jewels, who is commerce and lechery and empire. Then in Chapter 21 the visionary sees the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The verses resonate deeply with the prophetic visions of the Old Testament, including the measuring of the rivers from the City of God, besides whose shores is the tree of life, with leaves for the healing of the nations (Ezechiel 47.12, Revelation 22.2). It is our choice, to be a Whore of Babylon and lost, or to be the Bride that is Jerusalem, and found. Christ's ancestresses included the Gentiles Rahab and Ruth (Matthew 1.5). Birgitta of Sweden and many other women visionaries, including Julian of Norwich , were to write similar books of Revelationes or Showings in the Middle Ages. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who began by saying 'Of writing many books there is no end', would end her Aurora Leigh with the Apocalypse over Dante's Florence.

John's Gospel ends by saying it has just begun: 'But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written ' (21.24). And in their pages is written down everyone of us in flesh and blood, children, women , men, all the One Body of Christ at the Heavenly Wedding Banquet, at the Sabbath of Sabbaths, Cana's wine, asked for by Mary, Tabgha's bread, brought by the child, Nazareth's Sabbath Lamps blessed and lit by Mary, and the questions Christ asks of the Elders at the Passover. 'Maranatha!'

Yet everything I have said in this essay, being a woman , should be considered as like the words of ' Mary Magdalen, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women with them, when they told the Gospel to the Apostles. These words (rhymata ) seemed to them as but an idle tale, and they did not believe in them ' (Luke 24.10-11).


This is a chapter from an E-Book in progress, Miriam and Aaron: The Bible and Women.


The Mother Foundress, as it were of the Religious Society of Friends, Margaret Fell, who came to marry George Fox, made the same arguments:

Women's Speaking

Justified, Proved, and Allowed of by the Scriptures, All such as speak by the Spirit and Power of the Lord Jesus.

And how Women were the first that Preached the Tidings of the Resurrection of Jesus, and were sent by Christ's own Command, before he Ascended to the Father, John 20. 17.

Whereas it hath been an Objection in the Minds of many, and several times hath been objected by the Clergy, or Ministers and others, against Women's speaking in the Church; and so consequently may be taken, that they are condemned for medling in the things of God: The ground of which Objection is taken from the Apostle's Words, which he writ in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, Chap. 14. Vers. 34, 35. And also what he writ to Timothy in the first Epistle, Chap. 2. Vers. 11, 12. But how far they wrong the Apostle's Intentions in these Scriptures, we shall shew clearly when we come to them in their course and order. But first let me lay down how God himself hath manifested his Will and Mind concerning Women, and unto women.

And first, when God created Man in his own Image, in the Image of God created he them, Male and Female; and God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply: And God said, Behold, I have given you of every Herb, &c. Gen. 1. Here God joyns them together in his own Image, and makes no such Distinctions and Differences as Men do; for though they be weak, he is strong; and as he said to the Apostle, His Grace is sufficient, and his Strength is made manifest in Weakness, 2 Cor. 12. 9. And such hath the Lord chosen, even the weak things of the World, to confound the things which are mighty; and things which are despised, hath God chosen, to bring to nought things that are, 1 Cor. 1. And God hath put no such difference between the Male and Female, as Men would make.

It is true, The Serpent, that was more subtle than any other Beast of the Field, came unto the Woman with his Temptations, and with a Lye; his Subtlety discerning her to be the weaker Vessel, or more inclinable to hearken to him, when he said, If ye eat, your Eyes shall be opened; and the Woman saw, that the Fruit was good to make one wise: There the Temptation got into her, and she did eat, and gave to her Husband, and he did eat also; and so they were both tempted into the Transgression and Disobedience; and therefore God said unto Adam, (who hid himself when he heard his Voice) Hast thou eaten of the Tree, which I commanded thee that thou should'st not eat? And Adam said, The Woman which thou gavest me, she gave me of the Tree, and I did eat. And the Lord said unto the Woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the Woman said, The Serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. Here the Woman spoke the Truth unto the Lord. See what the Lord saith, ver. 15. after he had pronounced Sentence on the Serpent, I will put Enmity between thee and the Woman, and between thy Seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy Head, and thou shalt bruise his Heel, Gen. 3.

Let this Word of the Lord, which was from the beginning, stop the Mouths of all that oppose Women's Speaking in the Power of the Lord; for he hath put Enmity between the Woman and the Serpent; and if the Seed of the Woman speak not, the Seed of the Serpent speaks; for God hath put Enmity between the two Seeds; and it is manifest, that those that speak against the Woman and her Seed's Speaking, speak out of the Envy of the old Serpent's Seed. And God hath fulfilled his Word and his Promise, When the fulness of time was come, he sent forth his Son, made of a Woman, made under the Law, that we might receive the Adoption of Sons, Gal. 4. 4, 5.

Moreover, the Lord is pleased, when he mentions his Church, to call her by the Name of Woman, by his Prophets, saying, I have called thee as a Woman forsaken, and grieved in Spirit, and as a Wife of Youth, Isai. 54. Again, How long wilt thou go about, thou back-sliding Daughter? For the Lord hath created a new thing in the Earth, a Woman shall compass a Man, Jer. 31. 22. And David, when he was speaking of Christ and his Church, he saith, The King's Daughter is all glorious within, her Cloathing is of wrought Gold, she shall be brought unto the King; with gladness and rejoycing shall they be brought; they shall enter into the King's Pallace, Psal. 45. And also King Solomon in his Song, where he speaks of Christ and his Church, where she is complaining and calling for Christ, he saith, If thou knowest not, O thou fairest among Women, go thy way by the Footsteps of the Flock, Cant. 1. 8. c. 5. 9. And John, when he saw the Wonder that was in Heaven, he saw a Woman cloathed with the Sun, and the Moon under her feet, and upon her Head a Crown of twelve Stars; and there appeared another Wonder in Heaven, a great red Dragon stood ready to devour her Child. Here appears the Envy of the Dragon, Rev. 12.

Thus much may prove, that the Church of Christ is represented as a Woman; and those that speak against this Woman's speaking, speak against the Church of Christ, and the Seed of the Woman, which Seed is Christ; that is to say, Those that speak against the Power of the Lord, and the Spirit of the Lord speaking in a Woman, simply by reason of her Sex, or because she is a Woman, not regarding the Seed, and Spirit, and Power that speaks in her; such speak against Christ and his Church, and are of the Seed of the Serpent, wherein lodgeth Enmity. And as God the Father made no such difference in the first Creation, nor ever since between the Male and the Female, but always out of his Mercy and Loving-kindness, had regard unto the Weak. So also his Son, Christ Jesus, confirms the same thing; when the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, if it were lawful for a Man to put away his Wife? He answered and said unto them, Have you not read, That he that made them in the beginning, made them Male and Female; and said, For this Cause shall a Man leave Father and Mother, and shall cleave unto his Wife, and they twain shall be one Flesh; wherefore they are no more twain, but one Flesh? What therefore God hath joyned together, let no Man put asunder, Mat. 19.

Again, Christ Jesus, when he came to the City of Samaria, where Jacob's Well was, where the Woman of Samaria was, you may read in John 4. how he was pleased to preach the Everlasting Gospel to her; and when the Woman said unto him, I know that when the Messiah cometh, (which is called Christ) when he cometh, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. Also he said unto Martha, when she said, she knew that her Brother should rise again in the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet should he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth, shall never die. Believest thou this? She answered, Yea, Lord, I believe thou art the Christ, the Son of God. Here she manifested her true and saving Faith, which few at that day believed so on him, John 11. 25, 26.

Also that Woman, that came unto Jesus with an Alabaster Box of very precious Ointment, and poured it on his Head as he sat at meat; it is manifest that this Woman knew more of the secret Power and Wisdom of God, than his Disciples did, who were filled with Indignation against her; and therefore Jesus saith, Why do ye trouble the Woman, for she hath wrought a good Work upon me? Verily, I say unto you, Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole World, there shall also this that this Woman hath done, be told for a Memorial of her, Mat. 26. Mark 14. 3. Luke saith farther, She was a Sinner, and that she stood at his Feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his Feet with her Tears, and did wipe them with the Hair of her Head, and kissed his Feet, and annointed them with Ointment. And when Jesus saw the Heart of the Pharisee that had bidden him to his House, he took occasion to speak unto Simon, as you may read in Luke 7. and he turned to the Woman, and said, Simon, seest thou this Woman? Thou gavest me no Water to my Feet; but she hath washed my Feet with Tears, and wiped them with the Hair of her Head: Thou gavest me no Kiss; but this Woman, since I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my Feet: My Head with Oil thou didst not annoint; but this Woman hath annointed my Feet with Ointment: Wherefore I say unto thee, her Sins, which are many, are forgiven her; for she hath loved much, Luke 7. 37. to the End.

Also, there was many Women which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministring unto him, and stood afar off when he was Crucified, Mat. 28. 55. Mark 15. Yea even the Women of Jerusalem wept for him, insomuch that he said unto them, Weep not for me. ye Daughters of Jerusalem; but weep for your selves, and for your Children, Luke 23. 28.

And certain Women which had been healed of Evil Spirits and Infirmities, Mary Magdalen, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's Steward's Wife; and many others which ministred unto him of their Substance, Luke 8. 2, 3.

Thus we see that Jesus owned the Love and Grace that appeared in Women, and did not despise it: and by what is recorded in the Scriptures, he received as much Love, Kindness, Compassion, and tender Dealing towards him from Women, as he did from any others, both in his Life time, and also after they had exercised their Cruelty upon him; for Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of James, beheld where he was laid; And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of James, and Salom, had brought sweet Spices, that they might annoint him: And very early in the Morning, the first Day of the Week, they came unto the Sepulchre at the rising of the Sun; and they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the Stone from the Door of the Sepulchre? And when they looked the Stone was rolled away, for it was very great, Mark 16. 1, 2, 3, 4. Luke 24. 1, 2. and they went down into the Sepulchre, and as Matthew saith, The Angel rolled away the Stone, and he said unto the Women, Fear not, I know whom ye seek, Jesus which was Crucified: He is not here, he is risen, Mat. 28. Now Luke saith thus, That there stood two Men by them in shining Apparel, and as they were perplexed and afraid, the Men said unto them, He is not here, remember how he said unto you when he was in Galilee, That the Son of Man must be delivered into the Hands of sinful Men, and be Crucified, and the third Day rise again; and they remembred his Words, and return'd from the Sepulchre, and told all these things to the Eleven, and to all the rest.

It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the Mother of James, and the other Women that were with them, which told these things to the Apostles, and their Words seemed unto them as Idle Tales, and they believed them not. Mark this, ye despisers of the Weakness of Women, and look upon your selves to be so wise: But Christ Jesus doth not so; for he makes use of the weak: For when he met the Women after he was risen, he said unto them, All Hail! And they came and held him by the Feet, and worshipped him; then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid, go tell my Brethren that they go into Galilee, and there they shall see me, Mat. 28. 10. Mark 16. 9. And John saith, when Mary was weeping at the Sepulchre, that Jesus said unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? what seekest thou? And when she supposed him to be the Gardner, Jesus said unto her, Mary; she turned her self, and said unto him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master; Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my Brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God, John 20. 16, 17.

Mark this, you that despise and oppose the Message of the Lord God that he sends by Women; What had become of the Redemption of the whole Body of Mankind, if they had not cause to believe the Message that the Lord Jesus sent by these Women, of and concerning his Resurrection? And if these Women had not thus, out of their Tenderness, and Bowels of Love, who had received Mercy, and Grace, and Forgiveness of Sins, and Vertue, and Healing from him; which many Men also had received the like, if their Hearts had not been so united and knit unto him in Love, that they could not depart as the Men did; but sat watching, and waiting, and weeping about the Sepulchre until the time of his Resurrection, and so were ready to carry his Message, as is manifested, else how should his Disciples have known, who were not there?

Oh! Blessed and Glorified be the Glorious Lord; for this may all the whole Body of Mankind say, though the Wisdom of Man that never knew God, is always ready to except against the Weak; but the Weakness of God is stronger than Men, and the Foolishness of God is wiser than Men, 1 Cor. 1 25.

And in Acts 18. you may read how Aquilla, and Priscilla, took unto them Apollos, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly, who was an Eloquent Man, and mighty in the Scriptures; yet we do not read that he despised what Priscilla said, because she was a Woman, as many now do.

And now to the Apostle's Words, which is the Ground of the great Objection against Womens Speaking. And first, 1 Cor. 14. Let the Reader seriously peruse that Chapter, and see the end and drift of the Apostle in speaking these Words: For the Apostle is there exhorting the Corinthians unto Charity, and to desire Spiritual Gifts, and not to speak in an unknown Tongue; and not to be Children in Understanding, nor to be Children in Malice; but in Understanding to be Men. And that the Spirits of the Prophets, should be subject to the Prophets; for God is not the Author of Confusion, but of Peace: And then he saith, Let your Women keep Silence in the Church, &c.

Where it doth plainly appear, that the Women, as well as some others that were among them, were in Confusion: For he saith, How is it Brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a Psalm, hath a Doctrine, hath a Tongue, hath a Revelation, hath an Interpretation? Let all Things be done to Edifying. Here is no Edifying, but Confusion speaking together: Therefore he saith, If any Man speak in an unknown Tongue, let it be by two, or at most by three, and that by course, and let one Interpret: But if there be no Interpreter, let him keep Silence in the Church. Here the Man is Commanded to keep Silence, as well as the Woman, when in Confusion and out of order.

But the Apostle saith farther, They are commanded to be in Obedience, as also saith the Law; and if they will learn any thing, let them ask their Husbands at home; for it is a shame for a Woman, to speak in the Church.

Here the Apostle clearly manifests his intent; for he speaks of Women that were under the Law, and in that Transgression as Eve was, and such as were to learn, and not to speak publickly, but they must first ask their Husbands at home; and it was a shame for such to speak in the Church: And it appears clearly, that such Women were speaking among the Corinthians, by the Apostles exhorting them from malice and strife, and confusion, and he preacheth the Law unto them, and he saith, in the Law it is written, With Men of other tongues, and other Lips, will I speak unto this People, Vers. 2.

And what is all this to Women's Speaking? that have the everlasting Gospel to preach, and upon whom the Promise of the Lord is fulfilled, and his Spirit poured upon them according to his Word, Acts 2. 16, 17, 18. And if the Apostle would have stopped such as had the Spirit of the Lord poured upon them, why did he say just before, If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace, and you may all Prophesie one by one? Here he did not say, that such Women should not Prophesie as had the Revelation and Spirit of God poured upon them: But their Women that were under the Law, and in the Transgression, and were in Strife, Confusion and Malice; for if he had stop'd Womens Praying or Prophesying, why doth he say, Every Man Praying or Prophesying, having his Head covered, dishonoureth his Head; but every Woman that Prayeth or Prophesieth with her Head uncovered dishonoureth her Head? Judge in your selves, Is it comely that a Woman pray or prophesie uncovered? For the Woman is not without the Man, neither is the Man without the Woman in the Lord, 1 Cor. 11. 3, 4, 13.

Also that other Scripture, in 1 Tim. 2. where he is exhorting that Prayer and Supplication be made every where, lifting up Holy Hands without Wrath and Doubting; he saith in the like manner also, That Women must adorn themselves in modest Apparel, with Shamefacedness and Sobriety, not with broidered Hair, or Gold, or Pearl, or costly Array. He saith, Let Women learn in Silence with all Subjection; but I suffer not a Woman to Teach, nor to usurp Authority over the Man, but to be in Silence; for Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived; but the Woman being deceived was in the Transgression.

Here the Apostle speaks particularly to a Woman in relation to her Husband, to be in subjection to him, and not to Teach, nor usurp Authority over him, and therefore he mentions Adam and Eve: But let it be strained to the utmost, as the opposers of Womens Speaking would have it, that is, That they should not Preach nor Speak in the Church, of which there is nothing here: Yet the Apostle is speaking to such as he is teaching to wear their Apparel, what to wear, and what not to wear; such as were not come to wear modest Apparel, and such as were not come to Shamefacedness and Sobriety; but he was exhorting them from broidered Hair, Gold, and Pearls, and costly Array; and such are not to usurp Authority over the Man, but to learn in Silence with all Subjection, as it becometh Women professing Godliness with good Works.

And what is all this to such as have the Power and Spirit of the Lord Jesus poured upon them, and have the Message of the Lord Jesus given unto them? Must not they speak the Word of the Lord, because of these undecent and unreverent Women, that the Apostle speaks of, and to, in these two Scriptures? And how are the Men of this Generation blinded, that bring these Scriptures, and pervert the Apostles Words, and corrupt his Intent in speaking of them? And by these Scriptures, endeavour to stop the Message and Word of the Lord God in Women, by contemning and despising of them. If the Apostle would have had Womens speaking stop'd, and did not allow of them; Why did he intreat his true Yoak-Fellow to help those Women who laboured with him in the Gospel? Phil. 4. 3. And why did the Apostles join together in Prayer and Supplication with the Women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his Brethren, Acts 1. 14. if they had not allowed, and had Union and Fellowship with the Spirit of God, where-ever it was revealed, in Women as well as others? But all this opposing, and gainsaying of Womens Speaking, hath risen out of the Bottomless Pit, and Spirit of Darkness, that hath spoken for these many Hundred Years together in this Night of Apostacy, since the Revelations have ceased and been hid. And so that Spirit hath limited and bound all up within its Bond and Compass; and so would suffer none to Speak; but such as that Spirit of Darkness approved of, Man or Woman.

And so here hath been the Misery of these last Ages past, in the time of the Reign of the Beast, that John saw when he stood upon the Sand of the Sea, rising out of the Sea, and out of the Earth, having seven Heads and ten Horns, Rev. 13. In this great City of Babylon, which is the Woman that hath sitten so long upon the Scarlet colour'd Beast, full of Names of Blasphemy, having seven Heads and ten Horns. And this Woman hath been arrayed and decked with Gold, and Pearls, and precious Stones; and she hath had a Golden Cup in her Hand, full of Abominations; and hath made all Nations drunk with the Cup of her Fornication; and all the World hath wondred after the Beast, and hath worshipped the Dragon that gave Power to the Beast; and this Woman hath been drunk with the Blood of the Saints, and with the Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus. And this hath been the Woman, that hath been Speaking, and usurping Authority for many Hundred Years together: And let the Times and Ages past testifie how many have been murthered and slain, in Ages and Generations past; every Religion and Profession, (as it hath been called) killing and murthering one another, that would not join one with another: And thus the Spirit of Truth, and the Power of the Lord Jesus Christ, hath been quite lost among them that have done this. And this Mother of Harlots hath sitten as a Queen, and said, She should see no Sorrow: But though her Days have been long, even many Hundred of Years; for there was Power given unto the Beast to continue forty and two Months, and to make War with the Saints, and to overcome them: And all that have dwelt upon the Earth have worshipped him, whose Names are not written in the Book of the Life of the Lamb, slain from the Foundation of the World.

But blessed be the Lord, his time is over, which was above Twelve hundred Years, and the Darkness is past, and the Night of Apostacy draws to an end, and the true Light now shines, the Morning Light, the bright Morning Star, the Root and Offspring of David, he is risen, he is risen, Glory to the Highest for evermore; and the Joy of the Morning is come, and the Bride, the Lamb's Wife, is making her self ready, as a Bride that is adorning for her Husband; and to her is granted, that she shall be arrayed in fine Linen, clean and white; and the fine Linen is the Righteousness of the Saints; the holy Jerusalem is descending out of Heaven from God, having the Glory of God; and her Light is like a Jasper Stone, clear as Chrystal.

And this is that free Woman, that all the Children of the Promise are born of; not the Children of the Bond-woman, which is Hagar, which genders to Strife and to Bondage, and which answers to Jerusalem, which is in Bondage with her Children; but this is the Jerusalem which is free, Which is the Mother of us all. And so this Bond-woman and her Children, that are born after the Flesh, have persecuted them that are born after the Spirit, even until now: But now the Bond-woman and her Seed is to be cast out, that hath kept so long in Bondage and in Slavery, and under Limits; this Bond-woman and her Brood is to be cast out, and our holy City, the new Jerusalem, is coming down from Heaven, and her Light will shine throughout the whole Earth, even as a Jasper-Stone, clear as Chrystal, which brings Freedom and Liberty, and perfect Redemption to her whole Seed; and this is that Woman and Image of the Eternal God, that God hath owned, and doth own, and will own for evermore.

More might be added to this purpose, both out of the Old Testament and New, where it is evident that God made no difference, but gave his good Spirit, as it pleased him, both to Man and Woman, as Deborah, Huldah, and Sarah. The Lord calls by his Prophet Isaiah, Hearken unto me, ye that follow after Righteousness, ye that seek the Lord; look unto the Rock from whence ye were hewn, and to the hole of the Pit from whence ye were digged; look unto Abraham your Father, and to Sarah that bare you; for the Lord will comfort Sion, &c. Isa. 5. And Anna the Prophetess, who was a Widow of Fourscore and Four Years of Age, which departed not from the Temple, but served God with Fastings and Prayers night and day; she coming in at that instant, (when old Simeon took the Child Jesus in his Arms) and she gave Thanks unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them who looked for Redemption in Jerusalem, Luke 2. 36, 37, 38. And Philip the Evangelist, into whose House the Apostle Paul entred, who was one of the Seven, Acts 6. 3. he had four Daughters which were Virgins, that did prophesie, Acts 21.

And so let this serve to stop that opposing Spirit that would limit the Power and Spirit of the Lord Jesus, whose Spirit is poured upon all Flesh, both Sons and Daughters, now in his Resurrection; and since that the Lord God in the Creation, when he made Man in his own Image, he made them Male and Female; and since that Christ Jesus, as the Apostle saith, was made of a Woman, and the Power of the Highest overshadowed her, and the Holy Ghost came upon her, and the Holy Thing that was born of her, was called the Son of God; and when he was upon the Earth, he manifested his Love, and his Will, and his Mind, both to the Woman of Samaria, and Martha, and Mary her Sister, and several others, as hath been shewed; and after his Resurrection also, manifested himself unto them first of all, even before he ascended unto his Father: Now when Jesus was risen, the first Day of the Week, he appeared first unto Mary Magdalene, Mark 16. 9. And thus the Lord Jesus hath manifested himself and his Power, without Respect of Persons; and so let all Mouths be stopt that would limit him, whose Power and Spirit is infinite, who is pouring it upon all Flesh.

And thus much in answer to these two Scriptures, which have been made such a Stumbling-block, that the Ministers of Darkness have made such a Mountain of: But the Lord is removing all this, and taking it out of the way.

M. F.

A further Addition, in Answer to the Objection concerning Women keeping silent in the Church: For it is not permitted for them to speak, but to be under Obedience; as also saith the Law, If they will learn any thing, let them ask their Husbands at home, for it is a shame for a Woman to speak in the Church: Now this as Paul writing in 1 Cor. 14. 34. is one with that of 1 Tim. 2. 11. Let Women learn in silence with all Subjection.

To which I say, If you tie this to all outward Women, then there were many Women that were Widows, which had no Husbands to learn of; and many were Virgins, which had no Husbands; and Philip had four Daughters that were Prophetesses; such would be despised, which the Apostle did not forbid. And if it were to all Women, that no Women might speak, then Paul would have contradicted himself; but they were such Women that the Apostle mentions in Timothy, that grew wanton, and were Busie-bodies, and Tatlers, and kicked against Christ: For Christ in the Male and in the Female is one, and he is the Husband, and his Wife is the Church; and God hath said, that his Daughters should prophesie as well as his Sons: And where he hath poured forth his Spirit upon them, they must prophesie, though blind Priests say to the contrary, and will not permit holy Women to speak.

And whereas it is said, I permit not a Woman to speak, as saith the Law: But where Women are led by the Spirit of God, they are not under the Law; for Christ in the Male and in the Female is one; and where he is made manifest in Male and Female, he may speak; for he is the end of the Law for Righteousness to all them that believe. So here you ought to make a Distinction what sort of Women are forbidden to speak; such as were under the Law, who were not come to Christ, nor to the Spirit of Prophecy: For Huldah, Miriam, and Hannah, were Prophetesses, who were not forbidden in the time of the Law, for they all prophesied in the time of the Law; as you may read in 2 Kings 22. what Huldah said unto the Priest, and to the Ambassadors that were sent to her from the King, Go, saith she, and tell the Man that sent you to me, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and on the Inhabitants thereof, even all the Words of the Book which the King of Judah hath read; because they have forsaken me, and have burnt Incense to other Gods, to anger me with all the Works of their Hands: Therefore my Wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. But to the King of Judah, that sent you to me to ask Counsel of the Lord, so shall you say to him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Because thy Heart did melt, and thou humbledst thy self before the Lord, when thou heard'st what I spake against this place, and against the Inhabitants of the same, how they should be destroyed; Behold, I will receive thee to thy Father, and thou shalt be put into thy Grave in peace, and thine Eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place.

Now let us see if any of you, blind Priests, can speak after this manner, and see if it be not a better Sermon than any of you can make, who are against Women's Speaking. And Isaiah, that went to the Prophetess, did not forbid her Speaking or Prophesying, Isai. 8. And was it not prophesied in Joel 2. that Hand-maids should Prophesie? And are not Hand-maids Women? Consider this, ye that are against Women's Speaking, how in the Acts the Spirit of the Lord was poured forth upon Daughters as well as Sons. In the time of the Gospel, when Mary came to salute Elizabeth in the Hill-Country in Judea, and when Elizabeth heard the Salutation of Mary, the Babe leaped in her Womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit; and Elizabeth spoke with a loud Voice. Blessed art thou amongst Women, blessed is the Fruit of thy Womb. Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? For lo, as soon as thy Salutation came to my Ear, the Babe leaped in my Womb for Joy; for blessed is she that believes, for there shall be a Performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And this was Elizabeth's Sermon concerning Christ, which at this day stands upon Record. And then Mary said, My Soul doth magnifie the Lord, and my Spirit rejoyceth in God my Saviour, for he hath regarded the low Estate of his Handmaid: For, behold, from henceforth all Generations shall call me blessed; for he that is mighty, hath done to me great things, and holy is his Name; and his Mercy is on them that fear him, from Generation to Generation; he hath shewed Strength with his Arm; he hath scattered the Proud in the Imaginations of their own Hearts; he hath put down the Mighty from their Seats, and exalted them of low degree; he hath filled the Hungry with good things, and the Rich he hath sent empty away: He hath holpen his Servant Israel, in remembrance of his Mercy, as he spake to his Father, to Abraham, and to his Seed for ever. Are you not here beholding to the Woman for her Sermon, to use her Words, to put into your Common Prayer? and yet you forbid Women's Speaking.

Now here you may see how these two Women prophesied of Christ, and preached better than all the blind Priests did in that Age, and better than this Age also, who are beholding to Women to make use of their Words. And see in the Book of Ruth, how the Women blessed her in the Gate of the City, of whose Stock came Christ: The Lord make the Woman that is come into thy House like Rachel and Leah, which built the House of Israel; and that thou may'st do worthily in Ephrata, and be famous in Bethlehem, let thy House be like the House of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the Seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young Woman. And blessed be the Lord, who hath not left thee this day without a Kinsman, and his Name shall be continued in Israel. And also see in the first Chapter of Samuel, how Hannah prayed and spake in the Temple of the Lord, O Lord of Hosts, if thou wilt look on the Trouble of thy Hand-maid, and remember me, and not forget thy Hand-maid. And read in the second Chapter of Samuel, how she rejoyced in God, and said, My Heart rejoyceth in the Lord; my Horn is exalted in the Lord, and my Mouth is enlarged over my Enemies, because I rejoyce in thy Salvation; there is none holy as the Lord, yea, there is none besides thee; and there is no God like our God. Speak no more presumptuously; let not Arrogancy come out of your Mouths, for the Lord is a God of Knowledge, and by him Enterprizes are established; the Bow, and the mighty Men are broken, and the Weak hath girded to themselves Strength; they that were full, are hired forth for Bread, and the hungry are no more hired; so that the Barren hath born seven, and she that had many Children is feeble. The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; bringeth down to the Grave, and raiseth up; the Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich; bringeth low, and exalteth; he raiseth up the Poor out of the Dust, and lifteth up the Beggar from the Dunghil, to set them among Princes, to make them inherit the Seat of Glory: For the Pillars of the Earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the World upon them; he will keep the Feet of his Saints, and the Wicked shall keep silence in Darkness; for in his own Might shall no Man be strong: The Lord's Adversaries shall be destroyed, and out of Heaven shall he thunder upon them; the Lord shall judge the ends of the World, and shall give Power to his King, and exalt the Horn of his Anointed.

Thus you may see what a Woman hath said, when old Eli the Priest thought she had been drunk; and see if any of you, blind Priests, that speak against Women's Speaking, can preach after this manner; who cannot make such a Sermon as this Woman did, and yet will make a Trade of this Woman and other Women's Words.

And did not the Queen of Sheba speak, that came to Solomon, and received the Law of God, and preached it in her own Kingdom, and blessed the Lord God that loved Solomon, and set him on the Throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel for ever, and made the King to do Equity and Righteousness? And this was the Language of the Queen of Sheba.

And see what glorious Expressions Queen Hester used to comfort the People of God, which was the Church of God, as you may read in the Book of Hester, which caused Joy and Gladness of Heart among all the Jews, who prayed and worshipped the Lord in all places; who jeoparded her Life contrary to the King's Command, went and spoke to the King, in the Wisdom and Fear of the Lord, by which means she saved the Lives of the People of God; and righteous Mordecai did not forbid her speaking, but said, If she held her Peace, her and her Father's House should be destroyed. And herein, you blind Priests, are contrary to righteous Mordecai.

Likewise you may read how Judith spoke, and what noble Acts she did, and how she spoke to the Elders of Israel, and said, Dear Brethren, seeing ye are the Honourable and Elders of the People of God, call to Remembrance how our Fathers in time past were tempted, that they might be proved if they would worship God aright: They ought also to Remember how our Father Abraham, being try'd through manifold Tribulations, was found a Friend of God; so was Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, and all they pleased God, and were steadfast in Faith through manifold Troubles. And read also her Prayer in the Book of Judith, and how the Elders commended her, and said, All that thou speakest is true, and no Man can reprove thy Words; pray therefore for us, for thou art an holy Woman, and fearest God. So these Elders of Israel did not forbid her speaking, as you blind Priests do; yet you will make a Trade of Women's Words to get Money by, and take Texts, and preach Sermons upon Women's Words; and still cry out, Women must not speak, Women must be silent: So you are far from the Minds of the Elders of Israel, who praised God for a Woman's speaking. But the Jezabel, and the Woman, the false Church, the great Whore, and tatling and unlearned Women, and Busie-bodies, which are forbid to preach, which have a long time spoke and tatled, which are forbidden to speak by the true Church, which Christ is the Head of; such Women as were in Transgression under the Law, which are called a Woman in the Revelations.

And see farther how the wise Woman cryed to Joab over the Wall, and saved the City of Abel, as you may read, 2 Sam. 20. how in her Wisdom she spoke to Joab, saying, I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel, and thou goest about to destroy a City and Mother in Israel: Why wilt thou destroy the Inheritance of the Lord? Then went the Woman to the People in her Wisdom, and smote off the Head of Sheba, that rose up against David, the Lord's Anointed: Then Joab blew the Trumpet, and all the People departed in Peace. And this Deliverance was by the means of a Woman's speaking. But Tatlers and Busie-Bodies are forbidden to preach by the true Woman, whom Christ is the Husband, to the Woman as well as the Man, all being comprehended to be the Church. And so in this true Church, Sons and Daughters do prophesie, Women labour in the Gospel: But the Apostle permits not Tatlers, Busie-bodies, and such as usurp Authority over the Man, who would not have Christ to reign, nor speak neither in the Male nor Female; such the Law permits not to speak; such must learn of their Husbands. But what Husbands have Widows to learn of, but Christ? And was not Christ the Husband of Philip's four Daughters? And may not they that are learned of their Husbands speak then? But Jezabel, and Tatlers, and the Whore, that deny Revelation and Prophecy, are not permitted, who will not learn of Christ; and they that are out of the Spirit and Power of Christ, that the Prophets were in, who are in the Transgression, are ignorant of the Scriptures; and such are against Women's Speaking, and Men's too, who preach that which they have received of the Lord God; but that which they have preached, and do preach, will come over all your Heads, yea, over the Head of the false Church, the Pope; for the Pope is the Head of the false Church, and the false Church is the Pope's Wife: And so he and they that be of him, and come from him, are against Women's Speaking in the true Church, when both he and the false Church are called Woman, in Rev. 17. and so are in the Transgression, that would usurp Authority over the Man Christ Jesus, and his Wife too, and would not have him to Reign; but the Judgment of the great Whore is come. But Christ, who is the Head of the Church, the true Woman, which is his Wife, in it do Daughters prophesie, who are above the Pope and his Wife, and a-top of them. And here Christ is the Head of the Male and Female, who may speak; and the Church is called a Royal Priesthood; so the Woman must offer as well as the Man. Rev. 22. 17. The Spirit saith, Come, and the Bride saith, Come; and so is not the Bride the Church? and doth the Church only consist of Men? You that deny Women's Speaking, answer: Doth it not consist of Women, as well as Men? Is not the Bride compared to the whole Church? And doth not the Bride say, Come? Doth not the Woman speak then, the Husband, Christ Jesus, the Amen? And doth not the false Church go about to stop the Bride's Mouth? But it is not possible; for the Bridegroom is with his Bride, and he opens her Mouth. Christ Jesus, who goes on Conquering, and to Conquer; who kills and slays with the Sword, which is the Word of his Mouth; the Lamb and the Saints shall have the Victory, the true Speakers of Men and Women over the false Speaker.


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