Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Women in the World of Jesus 8

What about “other” women? Those who were not the “norm”? Those who lived on the margins?
First, Maidservants: most maidservants were Gentiles; there were Jewish maidservants but they were distinguished from Gentile maidservants (mQiddushin 1:2-3); some had been sold into slavery (Josephus, War 3:304; 6:384). Maidservants frequently appear in the Jewish and rabbinic documents because Jewish males had sexual relations with them (Ben Sira 41:22; mAbot 2:7; tHorayot 2:11-12). Rabbis warned about this but did nothing to protect the maidservant, who was ineligible to marry (she was suspected of sexual promiscuity). Some Jewish males ransomed Jewish slaves (bShabbat 127b).
Second, Proselytes: women converted to Judaism for a variety of reasons; frequently they did so to marry (see McKnight, Light). Women did not immediately attain “full membership” in Jewish society; nor were they immediately “Jews” by marriage (yQiddushin 4:1, 65b). The most famous female convert was Queen Helene of Adiabene (Josephus, Antiquities 20:51-52).
Third, Prostitutes: the most dangerous woman in Jewish society. There are plenty of warnings: Ben Sira 25:16-17; 9:3-8.
On Gentile prostitutes: Esther Rabbah 1:17 (9 parts of 10 of prostitutes are in Alexandria!); Josephus, Antiquities 19:356.
On Jewish prostitutes: Luke 7:36-50; Matthew 21:31; perhaps Matthew 11:19 (sinners?); Psalms of Solomon 2:11; Test. Levi 4:5-6; bSanhedrin 97a. War captives were considered prostitutes through no fault of their own (mKetubot 2:9; bGittin 57b).
Alternatively, some evidence suggests that rabbis defined any woman who engaged in sexual relations outside Jewish norms as a prostitute: barren woman, proselyte, freedwoman, casual sexual relations (Sifre Emor 1:7, 94b; bYebamot 61b; Ben Sira 26:9).
Fourth, Witches: women were connected to witchcraft through a number of steps: household life, midwifery, healing, knowledge of roots and plants, etc.. Some rabbis made outlandish statements: “because most women are inclined to sorcery” (ySanhedrin 7:19, 25d; bSanhedrin 67a).

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