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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.

  • 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
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    @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
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Luke 8:3 says that Joanna was the wife of Chuza Herod’s "epitropos". Another text may shed further light on this. In John 4:46ff we read that:

46 So he [Jesus] came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official basilikos whose son was ill. 47When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death ...
50Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”
The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

There are a few parallels in this text with the account of the healing of the centurion’s servant, which was also in Capernaum (see Matthew 8:5ff, Luke 7:1ff), but there are also some important differences. Matthew and Luke report that the person healed was the centurion’s paralyzed slave, whereas John 4 indicates that it was the official’s dying son. Furthermore, the man of John 4 was a “basilikos”, or royal official of king Herod, while a centurion would have been a Roman officer. A search for the word "basilikos" among the ancient Greek works in the Loeb Classical library led to the following renderings of this term: “a nobleman”, “an aristocrat”, and “a man of the royal court”. Literally, the word could be translated, "little king".

In 1874, F.W. Farrar commented on this passage saying:

As this courtier believed in Christ with his whole house, in consequence of the miracle now wrought, it has been conjectured with some probability that it was none other than Chuza himself (Lk 8:2-3)… The position of the courtier caused it to be widely known, and it contributed, no doubt, to that joyous and enthusiastic welcome which our Lord received during that bright early period of his ministry.
-- The Life of Christ (vol. 1, p. 230-232).

If Farrar is correct that Joanna's husband Chuza was the royal official of John 4, this would make a great deal of sense, since we're told that he, along with his entire household, believed. This would explain why a woman of Joanna’s noble status would later be found following Jesus around Galilee and Judea, and supporting him financially, and it may also explain the faith of Herod's foster-brother Manaen, who according to Acts 13:1 was found to be one of the earliest leaders of the church in Antioch around 45 AD.

Finally, the word "epitropos", used in Luke 8:3, fits beautifully with the word "basilikos" that we find in John 4:46. One is a royal official, or nobleman, while the other is specifically identified as Herod’s governor, administrator, or prime minister. Strabo uses the word "epitropos" to describe “Sylleus the administrator of king Obodas of Nabatea”.

According to one historian:

Obodas confirmed Sylleus as chief minister and almost immediately, Sylleus initiated negotiations with both the Romans and Herod the Great… Some think Sylleus was setting himself up to be the next king.

Josephus also notes that:

There was one Obodas, king of Arabia… but Sylleus administered most of his affairs for him.
-- Antiquities of the Jews (16.7.6).

The word he used here (translated administered) was "dioikeo," which is a synonym of the word epitropos. Chuza, therefore should be seen as Herod’s chief administrator, or even better, his "prime minister," rather than a mere "household manager” (as per the ESV).

So if the basilikos of John 4:46 is Chuza, why doesn't the author of the Fourth Gospel identify him by name? My guess is this has something to do with "protective anonymity", which is an idea that Richard Bauckham and Gerd Theissen mention in their writings. John relates this royal official's story in an anonymous way since it was written during a time of persecution and so the author was "protecting his source".

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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.

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There is the possibility that Joanna may be one of Jesus' sisters. Her presence in the tomb scene allows us to infer this. Only family members could have access to the body to anoint it.

And, also, her name appears in the genealogy of Jesus:

Luke 3:27 (KJV)
Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri,

The words "the son" is in italics in the Authorised Version of the Bible, which means it is not in the original Greek. The inclusion of a female name here PROVES that some names in the genealogy were female (on occasions when there were no male heirs).

Remembering that the Jews had the habit of putting names of their ancestors in their children (Luke 1:61).

Jesus had brothers with names of his ancestors: Jacob (James), Jude, Simon and Josef (name of the husband of Maria. Josef from Egypt, also).

  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. In the mGNT the name is given as masculine, Ἰωανὰν (Joanan), whereas in the TR it is feminine, ιωαννα (Joanna). If you have other examples of women being included in the genealogy of Jesus, then you ought to add them, otherwise you are building your house upon the sand, I'm afraid. – enegue Nov 20 '17 at 1:02
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Joanna used her own money, not her husbands’, to fund Jesus’ ministry. She was an upper class woman, with her own financial resources. Joanna was a powerful woman who, along with other contributing women, traveled with Jesus and his inner circle of twelve. She was a strong woman who made her own decisions. Joanna was a loyal disciple of deep faith. She was at the empty tomb, one of the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Yes, Joanna was the wife of Chuza, a powerful man, Herod’s personal executive assistant, but she was much more than just that.

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“Chuza, Joanna's Husband, was Herod's "Steward", and had access to considerable resources, his own, and Herod's.” Chuza would have been painfully executed for the crime of embezzlement against Herod, and nowhere does Scripture suggest this was the financial source that Joanna used. Instead Luke clearly stated that Joanna appropriated her own means (her own personal wealth) —not anyone else’s. Certainly not stolen funds.

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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!

  • 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

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