While reading Chapter 4 of John, one gets the impression that in the beginning of his public life, Jesus was a shy person in so far as interacting with women was concerned :

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” - (Jn 4:27).

But later, towards the end of his public life, we see Jesus interacting with women and even allowing them to display publicly their affection and respect for him:

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. - (Jn 12:1-3)

My question therefore is: Was there a paradigm shift in Jesus' interaction with women between the beginning and end of his public life? What is the Catholic Church's view-point on such a shift, and was Mother Mary instrumental in the change?

  • Until this very day, traditional Judaism deems it pointless for women to learn or study the Torah, beyond certain trivial things, such as preparing clean foods, or being very careful during their monthly period, so as not to render other things or people unclean, hence the Apostles' astonishment. – Lucian Sep 29 '20 at 7:59
  • Seems like, if there was any shift, it was in the minds of his disciples, not in Jesus's actions. – curiousdannii Sep 29 '20 at 7:59
  • Which bit in John chapter 4 gives you the impression that Jesus "was shy" interacting with women? This was not a Jewish woman but a Samaritan woman. Jesus did not ignore her and refuse to speak to her as any other Jew would have done. Instead he declared himself to her to be the Messiah and she believed. The disciples were surprised he was talking with a Samaritan woman. It had nothing to do with Jesus being "shy" with women. Unfortunately I can't answer your question because you seek a Catholic perspective, but it's the history of the Samaritans that will shed light on this situation. – Lesley Sep 29 '20 at 9:23
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    “Jesus was a shy person in so far as interacting with women was concerned” Totally not true! – Ken Graham Sep 29 '20 at 13:51
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    You can't ask Catholics to explain something without first establishing that they agree with the premises. This is a very poor question. – curiousdannii Sep 29 '20 at 22:05

The reason the disciples are suprised is not because of Jesus' character, but because the norms of the society at the time meant that this particular interaction was unusual. The woman herself is surprised in the same way, and explains why:

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) John 4:9 (NIV)

When the disciples arrive, they also seem to note that this interaction is unusual, but unlike the woman, they don't question Jesus.

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” John 4:27 (NIV)

This incident with the Samaritan woman actually highlights that Jesus was consistent with his approach towards women throughout his ministry, opening including them in the kingdom of God without bowing to the pressure of society. There is therefore no shift in Jesus' interaction in the gospels.

Note: I am not catholic, but I present this answer as a frame challenge to show that the question is being asked from an incorrect basis.

  • People of the Orient can very well understand the astonishment expressed by the disciples. In villages and small towns when a man and a woman of marriageable age engage in private talk , say by the roadside, all passersby give them a questioning look - even in these modern times ! Do these people plan to get married; or will he ditch her ? The gender-based taboos would have been much more prominent in those days. It is true that Jews treated Samaritans as people of lower class. But whether there was further segregation on account of gender, needs confirmation. – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan Sep 30 '20 at 4:29

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