Women in the Fourth Gospel
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Due to cultural circumstances of the past, the Bible was written mostly by men about men. Most biblical interpretation over the centuries was also done by men for men.  As a result, women's perspectives (including stories about women and/or by women) have often been neglected.  

A careful reading of the Gospels, however, uncovers many more stories than we might think in which women play very significant roles. Recovering these stories is one of the most important tasks of "feminist hermeneutics," which everyone can do today, men as well as women.

Although there are more Women in Luke's Gospel, the Gospel according to John contains several well-known stories involving prominent female characters, and most of these pericopes are found only in John:
John Pericope
2:1-11 The Mother of Jesus at the Wedding of Cana, and afterwards going with him to Capernaum
4:1-42 The Samaritan Woman at the Well encounters Jesus and later brings others to him
[8:1-11] The Adulterous Woman is accused by others but forgiven by Jesus  [not originally in John]
11:1-45 Martha and Mary ask Jesus to help their brother Lazarus, and express their faith in him
12:1-8 Mary of Bethany anoints the feet of Jesus during a dinner, and is defended by Jesus
19:25b-27 The Mother of Jesus and other Women are present at the Foot of the Cross
20:1-2 Mary Magdalene discovers the Empty Tomb and tells the disciples
20:11-18 Mary Magdalene is the first person to whom the Risen Jesus appears

There are also some shorter references to women and feminine imagery in the Fourth Gospel:

John Reference
3:4 Nicodemus asks about returning to a mother's womb and being born a second time
3:29 John (the Baptist) uses an analogy involving a bride and bridegroom
6:42 Some Jews claim that they know Jesus' "father and mother"
9:18-23 The parents of the Man Born Blind (implicitly also the mother) are questioned by the Pharisees
12:15 The Evangelist mentions the "daughter of Zion" while quoting Zech 9:9
16:21 Jesus uses the image of a woman in labor as an analogy for sorrow turning into joy
18:16-17 The woman gatekeeper challenges Peter in the courtyard of the High Priest

Return to the Introductory Materials for the Fourth Gospel

Women in John's Gospel – A Short Bibliography

Return to the Johannine Literature Homepage

This page was last updated on November 29, 2009
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