Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Johanna, a person of means

“Johanna, Disciple of the Lord or Jailbait?” II

Ben Witherington, III has suggested in his article which appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of BR that Joanna supplied the Jesus movement with food and provision taken from Chuza who was Herod’s epitropos. As epitropos, Chuza was responsible for Herod’s financial affairs and was in charge of all of Herod’s properties and estates.[i] He was the King’s personal representative.[ii]

Would Johanna as the wife of Chuza been able to supply the Jesus movement with food and provisions if she were just the wife of Chuza? Would Jesus have permitted the provisioning of his movement with food taken without permission from Herod? It is more likely that Johanna was wealthy independent of her marriage to Chuza. Being a retainer Chuza had power and prestige but no spare money. The codex Bezae in Lk 8:3 states something interesting about the women: "ek tôn uparkontôn autôn (with the genitive and not autais, a dative)= from their goods". These women helped Jesus and the Apostles with their own properties, with goods belonging to them "in title" (genitive).[iii]

Before concluding that Johanna really did contribute to the Jesus movement out of her possessions, we need to examine the provisions for Jewish daughters in the first century at the time of their marriage. There are several observations made by Tal Ilan[iv] relevant to this issue:

"Marriage into priestly families was considered to be a great honor. This had a practical side. We find that the court of priests in Jerusalem would levy for priestly daughters marrying into non‑priestly families a ketubbah of 400 zuz, in other words, if they are divorced or widowed priestly daughters receive an amount equivalent to twice that of an Israelite daughter (mKet. 1.5); this ensured that only sons of well to do families would marry into the priesthood.[v]

Throughout the Hellenistic‑Roman period, and according to all relevant sources, marriage was a matter to be settled by the parents of the bride and groom, on the basis of social connection and status.[vi]

The transfer of the woman from the authority of her father to the authority of her husband was viewed conceptually as the transfer of property by purchase.[vii]

The marriage contract (ketubbah) is not mentioned in the Bible; yet a ketubbah is mentioned already in Tobit (7.14), dated as early as the beginning of the Second Temple period. The ketubbah was essentially a monetary arrangement between the bride and groom with the purpose of ensuring the bride's maintenance in the event of divorce or the husband's death."[viii]

At the time of the betrothal the parties would also settle the matter of the bridal-gift, the property given by the bride’s father or such as was previously hers. According to Ecclesiasticus XXV:21-22, the bridal-gift remains in the control of the wife. It was held that “she may sell them or give them away and her act is valid.”[ix] These observations strongly suggest that Jewish custom and law provided financial protection for their daughters as they entered marriage. Obviously these provisions are only relevant for persons of means and are not generally applicable to the daughters of the poor agrarian class that constituted the vast majority of society. Thus it can be said codex Bezae is consistent with Jewish custom and law in that Yohanah used her own assets and she did not help Jesus and the Apostles with the money of her husband Chuza at her disposal.

Since the preceding paragraphs establish that Johanna had the means to donate her own property which she had acquired from her father to the Jesus movement, the Johanna of Luke 8:3 was a person of means.

[i] H. Hoehner, Herod Antipas, Cambridge (1972), 304.
[ii] Stegemann and Stegemann, The Jesus Movement, Minneapolis (1999), 131.
[iii] Kim, Stewardship and Almsgiving in Luke’s Theology, (Sheffield 1998), 104 notes: The woman “made use of material possession of their own” quoting Plummer, Luke, 216, in support thereof, “Probably the scale of their expenses would have been large, the whole band of wandering followers around Jesus being duly calculated; this would indicate that ‘they were persons of substance.’”
[iv] Jewish Women in Greco‑Roman Palestine: an Inquiry into Image and Status, Tubingen, (1995).
[v] Ilan at 72.
[vi] Ilan at 79.
[vii] Ilan at 88.
[viii] Ilan at 89.
[ix] M. Kethuboth VIII 1.

copyrighted 2005


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