Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Luke 8:1-3

Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ καθεξῆς καὶ αὐτὸς διώδευεν κατὰ πόλιν καὶ κώμην κηρύσσων καὶ εὐαγγελιζόμενος τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ οἱ δώδεκα σὺν αὐτῷ, 2 καὶ γυναῖκές τινες αἳ ἦσαν τεθεραπευμέναι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν καὶ ἀσθενειῶν, Μαρία ἡ καλουμένη Μαγδαληνή, ἀφ’ ἧς δαιμόνια ἑπτὰ ἐξεληλύθει, καὶ Ἰωάννα γυνὴ Χουζᾶ ἐπιτρόπου Ἡρῴδου καὶ Σουσάννα καὶ ἕτεραι πολλαί, αἵτινες διηκόνουν αὐτοῖς ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐταῖς. (SBL GNT)

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (ESV)

Assuming, as most modern translations indicate, that this refers to financial support (although that's an odd use of διακονέω), where did she get the money? Clearly her husband, Herod's ἐπιτρόπος (whatever that means) was a man of means. However, it seems strange to me that she was allowed by him to wander around with Jesus and to leverage financial resources (presumably his?) for Jesus' benefit. Allowing this seems to indicate Chuza's (public) support for Jesus, but he managed this without being fired or getting his head chopped off? Or is it possible that Joanna did this without her husband's support? (But I still imagine the rumors about the wife of Herod's ἐπιτρόπος running around with Jesus.....)

I'm looking for cultural/historical background to help me understand how this may have worked. Did first century Jewish women have financial assets that they could leverage independent of their husbands/fathers? I don't think there's anything further in the NT about this particular arrangement, but maybe someone knows of other early Christian writing or tradition about it.

share|improve this question
I am aware that there's a supposition floating around that it is Joanna who shows up in Latin as Junia in Romans 16:7, with the implication that she had divorced Chuza, married Andronicus, and moved to Rome. However, to my knowledge "being Herod's estate manager" was not one of the acceptable reasons for divorce within the early church, so this argument never quite fit together for me. (I suppose he could have died, but this gets pretty speculative...) Maybe there's more to it that I'm missing. – Susan Feb 28 '14 at 6:59
@Susan-It seems if you follow the 'Junia' trail, you find more breadcrumbs, otherwise, "Joanna" seems to produce a dead-end, although she is canonized a saint in Eastern Orthodox & Catholic traditions. Perhaps the best story is what we read in the text-she was a direct witness at the tomb to Christ's Resurrection, and she contributed of her substance to His needs-need more be said? It seems the women of Jesus's ministry expressed more bravery than the men during significant times of Jesus's ministry. – Tau Feb 28 '14 at 22:34
Herod doesn't seem to be really opposed to Jesus during his ministry, see for example Luke 23:8 and Joanna had been healed of some illness according to Luke 8:3 so possibly Chuza was willing to allow her to support Jesus out of gratitude - there seems no reason to suppose that her grateful support would have made life harder for Chuza at least in the early days – Jonathan Chell Apr 24 '15 at 13:51
@JonathanChell: What is the reference for Joanna being healed of some illness? (Just wondering.) Don – rhetorician May 7 '15 at 2:14
@rhetorician It’s in the quote in the question (8:2): τεθεραπευμέναι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν καὶ ἀσθενειῶν (having been healed from evil spirits and weaknesses, where the last word is often understood as disabilities or infirmities of some sort). – Susan May 7 '15 at 2:43

Question Restatement: How did Joanna support Jesus' ministry. Are there cultural indicators, contexts, that show what she may have done?

Limiting this answer to a text-only approach, to define what Phoebe probably did :

Conclusion: (A.) As noted, "ὑπαρχόντων", in this text is translated as "means", but taken to mean "finances". This is not correct. This word is most often used to mean "possessions", (i.e., solid assets), which can be sold. (B.) At the very least, Joanna probably sold, or used her possessions, (and Chuza's), to care for others. (C.) Also to note is the word, "διηκόνουν", translated here in this passage as a form of "serve", but in other contexts is sometimes "transliterated" , rather than "translated", as "Deacon". (D.) It is evident that women did "Serve". And, there are several examples that illustrate how Joanna may have done this :

The Possessions/Means of Joanna, a Servant/Deacon

Chuza, Joanna's Husband was Herod's "Steward", and had access to considerable resources, his own, and Herod's. Note: Herod was a Herodian, a Jewish leader of Israel.

It is also possible that Herod supported Jesus, maybe indirectly through Chuza, his steward and Joanna--though perhaps not probable :

Herod was not opposed to Jesus, at least at first:

Luke 23:8, NASB - Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.

Either way, Joanna, and Chuza, probably had more possessions than most.

Serving, by Selling of Possessions:

Acts 4:34, NASB - And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.

Serving, by caring for the widows:

Acts 6, NASB - Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve [deacon/minister] tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the [deacon/service] ministry of the word.” 5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. 6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.

Another woman, Phoebe, as a Servant/Deacon:

Romans 16, NASB - I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant [deacon/minister] of the church which is at Cenchrea; 2 that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the [b]saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.

share|improve this answer

This is a fascinating question Susan and one which I have puzzled over. There are other links between Jesus' group and well known Judeans. John (assuming him to be the disciple Jesus loved) was known to the gatekeeper of Caiaphas' court. For what it's worth I think it highly likely that Joanna's connection began in the Galilee where Herod Antipas spent much of his time. This may have been through contacts with John, who being well educated, may have acted as representative of his father's fishing firm in which he and his brother James, and the other brothers Simon (Peter) and Andrew were partners. Alternatively she may have come across Jesus through his general ministry.

Chuza may have been sympathetic, or he may have found it useful to have an ear on the ground so to speak. Epitropou which is the Greek you queried. Means a general manager, from epi (over) tropos (mover) - someone who oversees the general movements and running of an establishment. There is no reason why he should have been unsympathetic, and even Herod might have been glad of someone on the inside. That is not to say that Joanna herself may have been anything other than a true disciple.

As Herod Antipas paid Chuza, an interesting question arises as to the funding!

share|improve this answer
what source(s) do you have to indicate John was the "gatekeeper of Caiaphas' court"? – warren Apr 4 '14 at 17:27
Warren, sorry for the slow reply, I am afraid I am often not at my computer. I said John was known to the gatekeeper of Caiaphas' court, not that he was. The reference is in John 18:15,16. The gatekeeper was a girl. John's account does not say specifically that he was the 'other disciple' but this seems likely, and is widely held to be the case. – Tony Apr 21 '14 at 15:58
sorry for the misread =D – warren Apr 21 '14 at 16:03

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.