Her testimony is true : women as witnesses according to John
The Gospel of John records a cosmic lawsuit between God and the world with Jesus at the centre. Jesus, tried and condemned by worldly opponents, is retried before readers. John presents witnesses for Jesus, challenging readers to weigh their testimony and decide in Jesus' favour, that he is the Messiah. Among the witnesses, John presents several women. Since women in first-century Palestine were in most cases barred from giving juridical testimony, it might seem that John is undermining his purpose. Old Testament, pseudepigraphal, rabbinic, and apocryphal writings demonstrate that the exclusion of women from testifying was based on technical grounds and no inherent incompetence, although many felt that women were unreliable to witness. Further, women's exclusion was not comprehensive, and they could give juridical evidence in certain situations. Women also had a longstanding history of competence and leadership in religious testimony: prophecies, prayers, songs, confessions, oaths, and vows. The women whom John presents are Jesus' mother, the Samaritan, Martha and Mary, the women at the cross, Mary Magdalene, the mother of the blind man, and Annas' doorkeeper (the story of the adulterous woman is a later addition to John's Gospel). These women offer convincing, tentative, or no testimony, depending upon the situation. In no case does any one of these women offer a testimony that breaches the laws and customs governing women's capacities as witnesses. Thus, John's readers would be able to evaluate the testimony of the women no differently than that of the men. Narratologically, the women function as individuals, and John does not have any interest in or treat them as a gender class. Historically, because the women's testimonies fall within the legal, religious, and social bounds of Jesus' culture, John gains credibility as an historian, albeit one whose Gospel has a persuasive purpose and rhetorical cast.