Turid Karlsen Seim’s study of the Lukan treatment of women is a landmark in feminist studies of the New Testament. In the Gospel women have considerable prominence: they occur in “gender pairs” with men in such a way as to show their active participation in the ministry of Jesus; they are shown to exhibit ideal virtues of leadership, though they are not actually allowed to exercise it; they are custodians of the word up to the resurrection and bear witness, unsuccessfully, to the men. But while they are highly visible in the Gospel, in its sequel, Acts, they are silenced. Even though they could accompany Jesus on long journeys, they are not part of the church’s apostolic witness. Women are silenced as the preaching of the church moves out of the new “family” surrounding Jesus’ preaching of the word to the public sphere of the world of men. Only in so far as women embrace a form of asceticism and so free themselves of men’s control can they achieve a certain freedom. In this advocacy of asceticism Luke is strikingly different from the Pastoral to which he is often compared.
Professor Seim sensitively explores these tensions within Luke’s narrative. While Luke’s work demonstrates nicely the powers which silence women, the narrative of their participation in Jesus’ ministry keeps alive the memory of their active role in the beginnings of the church. It is a dangerous memory which can act as a critique of the processes of marginalization of women to which Acts bears witness.
Here is a study which is balanced, drawing freely on historical- and literary-critical methods of enquiry, not forcing its case but sensitive to the subtle tensions in Luke’s “double message.”
Turid Karlsen Seim is Professor of Theology (New Testament) and Dean of the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo.