A debut book offers a reconsideration of the role of women in Jesus’ life and ministry.
One could argue that Jesus’ interactions with women recorded throughout the Gospels are either unduly neglected or misinterpreted through a historically hypermasculine worldview. Ring, a psychotherapist and Episcopal priest, challenges this diminishment of women in the Bible by reassessing some of the stories involving Jesus’ various encounters with them. In doing so, the author not only raises important questions about the women within the Bible and Christianity at large, but also furnishes a new appraisal of Jesus’ overall message. For example, Ring analyzes several biblical stories in which Mary of Nazareth figures prominently and compares the very different treatment she is given in the Synoptic Gospels versus the Gospel of John. What emerges is a much more assertive Mary, not only valued for her passivity and obedience, but also for her courage and participation in Jesus’ religious development. The author even more forcefully rehabilitates the reputation of Mary Magdalene, providing what amounts to a direct repudiation of the conventionally accepted view: “Despite the many voluptuous portrayals of Mary Magdalene you have seen, there is not a shred of evidence to support the claim that she was a prostitute. In fact, she was a significant companion of Jesus who shared in his ministry and stood by him until the very end.” In some instances, the power of Ring’s interpretation is not so much in its rejection of tradition but in a new and clarifying contextualization. For example, while discussing Jesus’ healing of a woman hemorrhaging badly, Ring explains the stigma attached to her condition; in Jewish culture at the time, she would have been considered unclean. Ultimately, the deepest value of Ring’s thoughtful effort is that it amplifies one of Jesus’ principal teachings—the radical equality of all human beings—by demonstrating the equality of all of Jesus’ followers, regardless of gender. The author’s research is meticulous and luminously presented, and her message is profoundly Christian and modern.
An important contribution to the scholarly literature on Jesus, both feminist and otherwise.