Were Jesus’ disciples blatant misogynists?

Hey guys. I want to address the disciples’ reaction to the account of Jesus’ resurrection given to them by women.

I am seeing more commentary today claiming that the main reason the disciples disbelieved the women was that the women were women, and the men were misogynists. hard stop. (The most recent example I saw was in a blog post on Harper One publisher’s own website).

I think Luke’s account is the one most commonly pointed to:

“Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women.”

Luke 24:9-11

Of course, it would be quite naive of me to disregard the patriarchal cultural context of their time and place as having no bearing on the men’s reactions whatsoever. Indeed, Bauckham notes that, in the Greco-Roman world, women were regarded as “gullible in religious matters and especially prone to superstitious fantasy and excessive in religious practices.” I don’t doubt that the men disregarded the testimony in part because of the gender of those giving it to them.

But to make that the sole reason, or even the majority reason, seems dishonest to me.

For starters, none of the four gospels explicitly say that the disciples dismissed the women “because they were women,” so, even considering the cultural context, you’re still in danger of reading that explanation into scripture when it might not actually be there.

Secondly, the gospels are replete with instances where the disciples struggled with doubting Jesus (for example, when Peter doubted he could walk on water, or when he denied Jesus three times, or when they questioned how he could possibly feed 5,000 people with so little food, or when Thomas doubted that Christ had risen even as he stood before him).

So, the disciples’ dismissal of the resurrection account seems to be more so a simple continuation of this rocky portrayal of character than it does a blatant example of their raging misogyny (though again, I don’t doubt that some cultural bias might have played a role in their reaction).

Is this assessment fair? Or no?

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Hi @Zagusto123,

I think this is a fair assessment. Culturally women were considered less reliable and no doubt this contributed on some level. At the same time, perhaps the hardest thing for anyone who had visibly observed the crucifixion, would be to believe that Jesus was indeed risen. They had collectively just lived through an incredibly traumatic event that shattered everything they had been believing for the last 3 years.

Although Jesus had spoken to them numerous times of this, the Holy Spirit had not yet descended on them, and their hearts were dull to His truth. I think you have made a valid point in your post, and I appreciate you sharing these thoughts.

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Thanks for the response, Clark. I didn’t even consider the fact that the Spirit had not yet descended upon them. I wonder how deeply pivotal that was in this instance.

I’m also reminded of the verse in Ephesians that says that we as people are tossed about by the waves, and blown around by every wind of doctrine. Essentially, we are easily distracted and led astray by our own fallen nature. I can’t help but think that this truth was in play when these men, who had just spent three years witnessing the astounding miracles of Christ, still so easily fell into doubt here. It’s in our very nature.

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I agree, @Zagusto123. Our nature is to trust in ourselves and what our eyes behold, rather than looking through the lens of faith. I think this is especially true when we are bringing our preconceived ideas to the table along with our fear, doubt, and confusion. I think this is exactly the position the brothers found themselves in. I suspect I would have likely been in their company had I been there. How blessed is the Holy Spirit who quickens our hearts and minds and grants us belief!

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Zach,

In addition to all the things Belle has noted, especially in light of the Holy Spirit not being with them yet, that much of the doubting is tide to the serious destructive impact of sin in all of our hearts. We just have a very strong tendency not to believe God. Did God really say…? I think you’re dead on in noting how easily distractible we are.

I remember the first few times I read through Exodus…think about all of the things those people saw! River turned to blood. Frogs. Hail. Darkness. An entire river part, right in front of them, enabling them to walk through on dry land. A whole overwhelming army which they had no chance of repelling, wiped out. And three days into the journey, they were complaining. And within months making and worshipping a golden calf. I confess to being very judgmental about such dolts until I lived enough years to perceive my own doltageness.

Misogyny. We will always search for explanations of our God amnesia, but at the heart of it all, I think, it comes down to a question of how well we know Him. The disciples knew a lot about Jesus as a man, but they didn’t really know Him as God until the resurrection.

K.C.

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Thanks K.C. Great input. Yes, Scripture is living and breathing to those who have eyes to see it, and one verse can mean two different things to two different people (as long as they don’t contradict, or course); but at the same time, it really seems like the focus of the gospel authors in this little interaction was on the disciples’ relationship with Christ, not their relationship with the women.

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