Christ and the Dignity of Women
There are many historical facts that support the claim of the resurrection.
Perhaps the most compelling? The disciples encounter someone they believe to be Jesus. Then, from those encounters, they preach a message that would form the early church, with the resurrection of Christ at its center. Each went on to die a martyr’s death (with the exception of John), because of what they were teaching. None of them recanted.
What man would die for something he knew was a lie? Much less eleven men.
But one fact about the empty tomb is a bit more surprising and gives the resurrection additional credibility: in all Gospel accounts, women were the first to discover the empty tomb.
Why would this fact support the historical nature of the resurrection story? Let’s start with how women were viewed in first-century Palestine:
But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.” — Josephus
“Any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer), also they are not valid to offer. This is equivalent to saying that one who is Rabbinically accounted a robber is qualified to give the same evidence as a woman.” — Talmud (Rosh Hashannah)
“Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women.” — Talmud (Sotah)
Apparently, it was not Women’s Appreciation Month in Jerusalem. Women in the first century were seen as morally and intellectually deficient. Their testimony would not even be allowed in court.
Those who try to discount Christianity often make the claim that the disciples fabricated the details and made the resurrection up. It’s a fictitious story with myth at its center.
But if, in fact, the disciples made up a story to place themselves in a position of power in this new religion they were establishing, wouldn’t they have had men be the witnesses of the most important detail of their entire story: the empty tomb? If they were crafting a story to dupe people, why would they have had women be the first to find Jesus? Based on what we know, this detail in their accounts actually served to undermine the most foundational element of the message. So why in the world would they include it…unless it actually happened?
Theologian Dr. William Lane Craig puts it this way, “The discovery of the tomb by women is highly probable. Given the low status of women in Jewish society and their lack of qualification to serve as legal witnesses, the most plausible explanation…why women and not the male disciples were made discoverers of the empty tomb is that the women were in fact the ones who made this discovery.”
If the disciples are going to put all of their resurrection eggs in one basket, they wouldn’t put them into a basket held together by the testimony of women unless it was true.
This shows us two beautiful things:
One, the tomb was, in fact, empty.
And two, the Christian faith views women differently than how some cultures have viewed them.
This is God’s striking, counter-cultural affirmation of the beauty, worth, and dignity of women in the first century. At a time when a woman wasn’t allowed to share her testimony in court, God chose women to be the first ones to share their testimony of the risen Christ — and it is on their witness that the church is built!
Each person, no matter the ethnicity, race, or gender, is created in the image of God. The theological term for this is being created in the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:27). So we don’t just see women valued and exalted here, we see it throughout the Bible.
In the time when the Old Testament was written, women were often treated as no better than a piece of property, traded by their fathers for social or political gain.
But from the very beginning of the Bible, we see a drastically different story. We see wives depicted as beloved companions and cherished partners (Genesis 2:20-24, Proverbs 19:14, Ecclesiastes 9:9). At Sinai, when God gave his law to the Israelites, the children were commanded to obey both their father and mother. There is an equality of value and dignity. Sure, there were people in the Bible who departed from this; but it’s because they strayed away from God’s design, not because He approved of it.
Husbands are told to love their wives like Christ has loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25-31). The Bible not only acknowledges but also celebrates the worth and value of a virtuous woman (Proverbs 31).
So it shouldn’t surprise us then when we read how instrumental women were in the ministry of the early church (Acts 12:12-15, Acts 16:11-15, 2 Timothy 1:5).
God certainly created men and women differently, but those differences are in roles and design that are meant to complement one another — not meant to designate a difference in value or dignity.
Based on all of this, and remembering the context of how women were viewed in the first century, we find the Bible to hold a revolutionary view of women. They are cherished and celebrated. They are lifted up as examples to follow and people whose legacies should be carried on.
Far from being abused, they are meant to be adored. Far from being looked down upon, they are meant to be looked up to.
The Bible contains the very truth of God and is the revelation of His character and works. It doesn’t bend to popular culture. As Christians, we don’t read the Bible through the lens of the culture, we read the culture through the lens of the Bible.
In a time when women are being used across the world — perhaps more now than ever — through sex trafficking, pornography, or in the stories of the #metoo movement, we pray for the world to see women as God has always seen them since the beginning of time: created in His image, and valuable enough to be chosen as a foundation for the credible witness of His eternal and divine plan of redemption.
This article was written by Pastor Caleb Brasher of Grace Clermont and first appeared in the Spring 2018 edition of Grace Magazine.