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Religion Professor Stuart Love Authors New Book Exploring Jesus and Marginal Women
Stuart Love is a professor of religion at Seaver College but for the past few years he has stepped across academic boundaries into the realm of social science in order to write his latest book. Jesus and Marginal Women: The Gospel of Matthew in Social-Scientific Perspective explores Jesus' interactions with women from all walks of life, comparing and contrasting the New Testament era with our own as two very different social climates.
"I start with what I call the need in the church to rethink the topic of gender," says Love. "Then, let's open this up more. There is tremendous diversity, I think, that exists in the Biblical materials. And there are some good reasons why the Biblical materials don't address our social situation in which we live now."
The social order in Jesus' era was very different from our own; widows, abandoned women, and the sick were often outcasts in their agrarian, hand-to-mouth society. Love defines marginalized women as those ostracized from mainstream society because of an unequal social structure, those who are torn between two cultures and cannot fully participate in either one, and, the least likely, those who willfully set themselves apart. The first two are exemplified in the stories of the hemorrhaging woman, and the Canaanite woman with a sick daughter. Both women are on the fringes of society, and both are listened to and helped by Jesus.
Love argues that Matthew, in writing the gospel, is not a political advocate for social and gender equality, but that he promotes Jesus' vision of a new surrogate family of God in which all are equal in His eyes - an idea, he says, that would have been challenging given the sociological structure of the time.
"I'm led to the conclusion that we too quickly read our social world into the social world of the New Testament," Love explains. He adds that Matthew was writing about two very different cultures: the advanced agrarian society of his time, and the Kingdom of Heaven. One is fluid, and evolved into our contemporary culture with an entirely different social construct. The other remains static and where, fundamentally, all are equal.
This is Love's second book since he joined the faculty at Pepperdine in 1979. In 2003 he published Streams of Mercy - Amos, a text exploring the Old Testament prophet of Israel. He began researching the ideas behind his latest book in 1981 and is naturally relieved to have seen his hard work come to fruition.
"It is a great sense of relief, but not in the sense that it's over," he says. "It is an interest that I think is going to carry on. I'd love to do the same thing with Luke and Acts, and see what I find. So if I'm able to maintain health and longevity then this isn't over!"
Love teaches Greek, religion, and a freshman seminar titled, "Cross-Cultural Study of the Family," in the Seaver College religion department. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Abilene Christian College and University in the 1960s. He also graduated from the San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1977, and spent a number of years in church ministry before coming to Pepperdine University.