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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

May 9, 2014

Break with culture: Mary's testimony

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

Among the Greeks, women held a near slave status. Wives were not allowed to eat with their husbands' guests nor to leave their house unescorted. Infanticide for baby girls was seen as justified. Women were looked upon as inferior and impure compared to men.

In Rome, a man had complete authority over his wife. Adultery could be punished by death. Going without a veil could lead to divorce. It reminds one of today's strict Islamic codes for women.

The status of women in the Jewish culture of the time was better, but women were not considered equal to men in several respects, as in legal matters for example. The Talmud tells us: „Though the woman is subject to the commandments, she is disqualified from giving evidence„ (Jewish Talmud, Baba Kamma 88a). And the Jewish historian Josephus confirms this viewpoint: „But let not a single witness be credited, but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of the sex„ (Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. IV. Ch. Vlll. 15)

But who gave the first testimony of Jesus' resurrection, at His request?

„The angel answered and said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you. So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, Rejoice! So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me„ (Matthew 28:5-10).

In the culture of the day it is amazing that Jesus asked a woman – Mary Magdalene – to give testimony of His resurrection to His male disciples. Four male authors, the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all report that a woman was the first person to meet the resurrected Christ and give testimony of His resurrection. In our liberal western culture the implications of this event from the first century are not realized.

Jesus knew that Mary Magdalene would give a true account of His resurrection. The authors of the New Testament gospels were convinced of the truthfulness of her report. Their account would otherwise have been considered invalid because it was based on the testimony of a woman. In asking Mary to give testimony of His resurrection, Jesus actually provided an internal proof that the Bible record can be considered true.

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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