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Luke On The Dignity Of Women: Perspective Of Female Discipleship

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The social world in which Christianity was born had a long and complex history. The Jewish tradition was not the only great civilization in ancient times that trickled into Christianity. There were the earlier Persians' and Assyrians' traditions amongst others. These were all patriarchal societies where women were relegated to an inferior and subordinate position. Swindler (1976) said that the ancient Sumerians of the third Millennium BC allowed women to own and control property, to be educated and to be able to take more than one husband legally. But in the second millennium these rights were, as it were, usurped by Patriarchy. The surviving civilization imbued with a kind of gender equality that infiltrated into the Hellenic culture was the Egyptians. Tetlow (1980) wrote that in the last three millennia BC, marriages in Egypt were monogamous and by mutual consent. Women acquired wealth and political power because they had as well an equal right of inheritance with the men. A few women were pharaohs! These experiences filtering served as an antithesis to the thesis of the patriarchal societies of the Greco-Roman and Jewish world. Christ, the revolutionist, goes beyond the frontiers to found a new dispensation community, where these cultural barriers give way for faith, love and service in the Spirit. The one barrier now is the Spirit and the criterion baptism. Other things are not necessary. Restrictions begin to appear glaringly as the Apostles dance off the stage, which find expression in the household codes, that is, in the post-apostolic era. This time Christianity becomes a mirror of the cultural patriarchal structure, where a woman is not saved by faith and works in Christ alone but firstly by childbearing (Cf. 1 Tim 2:15). This is sad. Was the Lucan tradition influenced by all these misogynist cultural conceptions? What are his breakthroughs and thus his idea of women's dignity.

The Person of Luke

Traditionally, Luke had been taken as the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles. It is not useful to this project to pry into problems of Luke's identification of authorship. It suffices us to know here that Luke was acclaimed by an end of second century extra-textual prologue to the Gospel as a Syrian of Antioch and a physician by profession. Fitzmyer (1981) quotes Tertullian,

Luke, however, was not an apostle, but only a man of apostolic times (apostolics); not a master, but a disciple, inferior indeed to a master - and at least as much later (than they) as the apostle whom he followed, undoubtedly Paul (was later than the others) {Adversus Marcionem 4.2,2}(p.40)

Fitzmyer (1981) continues to say that Luke was thus not a witness of the Lord himself but a fellow worker (Phlm 1: 24), the beloved Physician (Col 4:14) and the sole companion (2Tim. 4:11) of Paul. As it were, his gospel was a digest of Paul's gospel. Tertullian called Paul Luke's inspirer. Nevertheless, he was first the disciple of the apostles before becoming a follower of Paul. However, Luke's gospel was billed for the gentile converts after Mathew and Mark had written theirs. Luke was a good Greek stylist. He served the Lord without distraction, without wife and children (1Cor. 7:32)

Female Discipleship

'Disciple' is taken from the Latin word discipulus meaning 'student'. Female disciples are thus women students of Christ. These are not followers who are just interested in the miracles of Jesus but those who accept all His teachings and are members of the Christian group. The depth of their involvement in the new religion as recounted by Luke bespeaks their dignity as perceived by the same evangelist.


"Dignity" is defined in Microsoft Encarta as worthiness: the condition of being worthy of respect, esteem, or honor. Thus one can see the dignity of somebody by the way (s)he is esteemed or respected.

Feely (2011) captured the Catholic Social Teaching on dignity:

Human dignity originates from God and is of God because we are made in God's own image and likeness (Gn 1:26-27). Human life is sacred because the human person is the most central and clearest reflection of God among us. Human beings have transcendent worth and value that comes from God; this dignity is not based on any human quality, legal mandate, or individual merit or accomplishment. Human dignity is inalienable - that means it is an essential part of every human being and is an intrinsic quality that can never be separated from other essential aspects of the human person. Human beings are qualitatively different from any other living being in the world because they are capable of knowing and loving God, unlike any other creature. Belief in the dignity of the human person is the foundation of morality.

This shows that human dignity does not arise from humans themselves; it is not worked for but it is given by God in whose image humans are made. As such, it is an intrinsic quality; it cannot be separated from the essence of a person; it is sacred and transcendent because of its divine origin.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2002) defines it as

The dignity of the human person is rooted in his/her creation in the image and likeness of God. It is fulfilled in his/her vocation to divine beatitude. It is essential to a human being freely to direct him/herself to this fulfillment. By his/her deliberate actions, the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience. Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth. (p. 383)

The Catechism says that even though the dignity is given, there is a part the individual will perform and this is living out his life in accord with the beatitudes. However, this does not remove the intrinsic quality, dignity, but it brings fulfillment. This shows that vocation fulfills dignity but when vocation does not conform to the good promised by the Creator, it does not negate dignity but shows a disorientation of the person in question. Pope John Paul II (2005) ties women dignity to their vocation in Mulieris Dignitatem as he maintains that

The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way -- precisely



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