Sara Parks' book Gender in the Rhetoric of Jesus, should be read by anyone interested in the historical Jesus, or Q, or the earliest Jesus movements, as well as anyone interested in gender in ancient religion. Let the conversation continue!!
Sara Parks’s monograph is an excellent discussion of the 12 gender-pairs in Jesus’ parables in Q. . . . Parks does an admirable job in making a highly complex and nuanced topic clear and accessible, even to undergraduate-level students. Indeed, some of the chapters would serve extremely well as readings for students. At the same time Parks’s analysis of these pairs is never simplistic or reductive; she tackles head-on issues such as supersessionism, feminist readings, patriarchal society and – surprisingly for a book on Q – even the existence and nature of Q. In my eyes, the most useful (and possibly surprising) part of the book, for many scholars of early Christianity, will be the analysis of what the pairs do and do not imply for gender equality in the Jesus movement and how this reflects broader changes in the status of women in the first-century context.
There is an ethical challenge posed by this book, and Reinhartz returns to it in the final pages: “Should we not resist any rhetorical program,” she writes, “that vilifies the ‘other’ in order to construct the ‘self’?” (163). Important words, especially in the present global political climate. As a Jewish scholar of these early Jewish and Christian texts, she does not pronounce directly on the ethical consequences of seeing John as scripture. “The task of whether or how to integrate this view with Christian faith I must leave to others,” she writes (165). But that this task is important, she leaves no doubt. “Are we our best selves as we follow the story and worldview of this or that implied author?” she asks in an opinion piece about the book on the popular blogsite Ancient Jew Review.12 Should there be any question about a way forward, the reader is returned, in Reinhartz’s conclusion, to the lived example of Gregory Baum. One cannot help but conclude that she is giving words to her initial dedication: may his memory “be a blessing” (xi).
Parks’ study of Q gender pairs provides a corrective to the earlier erroneous views that argues Luke is inclusive of women. It presents a case that gender equity weakened as Christianity moved away from Judaism to a more Romanized world. It acts as a corrective for scholarly views who interpret women’s inferior status in Judaism by referencing later Rabbinic writings. Consequently, this book raises many questions on both the Pastoral letters and the writings of many Church Fathers on the status and place of women. Therefore it makes a relevant contribution to the reconstruction of women’s status and position in the early Jesus’ movement. . . . Parks’ insight that the teachings of Jesus have been altered at a very early stage stands and correctly prompts the need for more research in this direction, and an important challenge for scholars to undertake further research on Jesus’ attitude towards women.
This book beckons its readers to reconsider the role of gender in the words of Jesus as attested in the rhetoric of Q. Dr. Sara Parks provides a taxonomy and analysis of rhetorical gender pairings in Q and by doing so reveals offers a fresh reconsideration of the historical Jesus. Gender roles in Q are treated with historical nuance and the fruit of her research is presented to her reader with cultural sensitivity without sacrificing integrity. . . this effort has furthered the study of the historical Jesus, Q, and gender in the New Testament, that needs to be digested by scholars in the aforementioned fields and anyone interested in the bible and gender studies. . . . Dr. Sara Parks has effectively and decisively revealed the value of women in the basilea of Christ––as attested in the rhetoric of Q and corroborated by the lack of corresponding gender pairings in its textual contemporaries––and in doing so has necessitated an ecumenical reconsideration of gender roles through her exceptional work Gender in the Rhetoric of Jesus: Women in Q.
This is a highly focused and valuable study of Jesus’ attitudes toward women through an analysis of Jesus’ sayings found in the Q source (i.e., material found independently in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark). . . Parks carefully notes that we should not cast a twenty-first-century perspective on Jesus’ first-century world. These parallel sayings reflect typically gendered roles but also affirm that Jesus valued women as equal to men in their intellectual and spiritual capacities. This is an erudite and finely balanced study that makes a genuine contribution.