‘And Many Other Women’ Part II

October 1, 2004 | 11 comments
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Here’s Luke 11:27-28:

And it came to pass, as [Jesus] spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

This woman has offered rather traditional praise of Jesus, by praising the very physical aspects of what his mother had done in mothering him.

However, Jesus deems this statement worthy of correction. There are (at least) two ways of reading his statement:

(1) Woman: “Blessed is Mary.”
Jesus: “No, blessed are the disciples.”

(2) Woman: “Blessed is Mary.”
Jesus: “Yes, but not because of physical acts. She is blessed for keeping the commandments.”

I prefer (2) as I don’t see any context in the Gospels (especially this one) for Jesus minimizing his mother. I think (2) is better also because it correctly puts the focus on the important aspects of motherhood (raising children in light and truth) and not the physical ones. Perhaps an odd perspective from someone working on her 116th week of pregnancy, but the truth is that any physically able woman can physically bear and nurse a child; raising them in the Gospel is a lot more rare, harder, and much, much more important.

11 Responses to ‘And Many Other Women’ Part II

  1. Kaimi on October 1, 2004 at 8:45 pm

    “the truth is that any physically able woman can physically bear and nurse a child; raising them in the Gospel is a lot more rare, harder, and much, much more important.”

    Amen to that.

    (But what about Saturday’s Warriors? And all the baayy-biies? . . . )

  2. Bryce I on October 2, 2004 at 3:08 pm

    I don’t have much to say here, just that I like this series of Julie’s, and wanted to express my hope that it continue (recognizing that you may have other things taking your time and attention in the near future).

  3. Ashleigh on October 2, 2004 at 3:56 pm

    Good one Julie. I love this, thanks for taking the time to share.

  4. Mark Mason on October 3, 2004 at 3:57 pm

    I don’t think the Savior was commenting on motherhood at all. The Plan of Salvation involves intimately the birth of children and the divinity of motherhood. That is unquestionable. I see him focusing on the importance of obedience bringing someone into favor with God, rather than one select person (His mother in particular) holding a position of favor. In other words, to be blessed is not holding a solitary position of being the mother of someone important, but rather anyone can find favor with God as long as they willingly obey His word.

  5. Julie in Austin on October 3, 2004 at 4:11 pm

    Mark–

    Can it be both?

  6. Keith on October 3, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Julie,

    You might be interested in Richard Neuhaus’s _Death on a Friday Afternoon_. In the chapter “Witnesses” (I think that’s the one) he devotes time to the women who were at the trial and the cross. I think you’ll find it interesting.

    Neuhaus is Catholic so there’s a special place given to Mary as a kind of exemplary disciple. For instance, in his reading of the miracle of the water to wine at the marriage feast, he notes how Mary says to the servants “Whatever he tells you, do it” (paraphrased). From the beginning she serves as an embodiment of discipleship, including the witness that disciples are to give.

  7. Rosalynde Welch on October 4, 2004 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks, Julie, for posting another nugget–and for giving me another chance to praise your close reading and (clearly concordance-quality) knowledge of the scriptures. I hope my comment on your last insight didn’t seem dismissive–I fear that graduate school has permanently destroyed my ability to give a whole-hearted compliment.

    And to Mark, I think the fact that Christ is responding directly to a woman (though undoubtedly in the presence of others) could support Julie’s (2) scenario, that there may be special relevance intended for women.

    And I just have to say (for someone who’s working on her 116th month of nursing )–although I realize that the woman’s comment inadvertently objectified Mary and reduced her value to the usefulness of her anatomical parts–I still appreciate her blessing!

  8. Julie in Austin on October 4, 2004 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks, Rosalynde.

    (Did you really mean MONTH? You’ve been nursing for about ten YEARS? I’m in awe.)

  9. Ashleigh on October 4, 2004 at 4:25 pm

    Of course I had to figure out how many months I’ve been nursing now, 49 months. But I’m quitting before the next fall allergy season, I can not take another year without my Allegra. I look like Rudolph and I feel like poo.

  10. Rosalynde on October 4, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    Oh no, Julie–I was just making hyperbolic reference to (what I assume was) your hyperbolic “116th week of pregnancy.” Really I’ve nursed, let’s see, thirty-one months, currently with an extremely active little toddler. I’m just a beginner compared to most of you, I’m sure! (I’m only on my second child.) My mother, however, nursed all ten of her children for at least a year (most more)–so she really really has nursed for ten years!

    But now it occurs to me that perhaps you really are on your 116th week of pregnancy, if you add all your pregnancies up….

  11. Julie in Austin on October 4, 2004 at 9:37 pm

    You see, Rosalynde, in the tradition of all inspired writings :) my words work on several different levels:

    (1) metaphorically, I feel like I have been pregnant for at least 116 years.

    (2) literally, this is the third child, so I really have been pregnant a total of 116 weeks. (Which, by the way makes me drip with envy because I have a close friend with triplets–she got three kids out of 27 weeks of pregnancy!!!)

    (3) symbolically, because 116 is just shy of 12 times 10, 12 being the Hebrew numerical symbol for Israel and the priesthood and, oh heck, I’m too tired to finish this thought.