In first century Judaism it was customary for a Sage/Rabbi (teacher of Torah) to obtain disciples who would commit to learn from him interpretation of Torah. As they learned from their Rabbi they would take his “yoke” upon them. This means that they would adhere to His understanding and interpretation of Torah and how one was supposed to “walk” out Torah in their everyday life (halakhah).
When a disciple had decided to follow a particular Rabbi, or Torah teacher, they were said to “sit at the feet”. In fact, this is what they did many times as many Rabbi's traveled extensively throughout the countryside and would teach their disciples in outdoor settings. However, some of the more well-known Rabbi's had schools of learning. Rabban Gamaliel founded one such school in Jerusalem which, according to history, would hold up to 500 students. The Apostle Sha'ul (Paul) was a disciple of Rabban Gamaliel as is recorded in Acts:
Acts 22:3 “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel and taught according to the truth of the law of the fathers, zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.”
Notice in this scripture the phrase, “at the feet of Gamaliel”, thus indicating that the Apostle Paul was a disciple of Gamaliel. This was a legal term.
Historically, males were the ones who became disciples of the “male” Rabbi's. In their culture women primarily stayed at home and cared for the home and the children. MOST girls received no formal education, much less “sit at the feet” of a Rabbi.
In Luke we read about Mary and Martha:
Luke 10:38-42 “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about in much serving and came to him and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; but only one thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
In reading these scriptures it might be easy to make light of the phrase which states that Mary “sat at Jesus' feet”. While the plain meaning was that Mary had chosen the most important thing to do besides the “routine and normal” things expected by a woman, the deeper meaning is that she was a disciple of Yeshua. Furthermore, Yeshua WAS FINE WITH HAVING a woman as His disciple.
While Martha was busy with a woman's work of serving those men who had gathered at their house, Mary was found sitting at the feet of Yeshua along with the men. This flies in the face of the traditionally accepted views of discipleship in the first century. Mary was clearly behaving just as a male disciple would have and, as already stated, Yeshua approved.
According to the Brit Hadashah (New Testament) MANY, MANY women followed Yeshua throughout His earthly ministry, from its beginning to His ascension. These women would have been His disciples just as sure as the men were. There is little doubt that Yeshua welcomed these women and valued their ministry. It is further recorded that these women gave of their resources to support His Mission.
Luke 8:1-3 “And it came to pass afterward that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and announcing the gospel of the kingdom of God, and the twelve with him, and certain women, who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who ministered unto him of their substance.”
Acts 1:13-14 “Then they returned unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where Peter and James and John and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James were. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”
In addition, Yeshua addresses a question which denotes His acceptance of male and female disciples gathered together in one location:
Matthew 12:47-50 “While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brothers stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brothers? AND HE STRETCHED FORTH HIS HAND TOWARD HIS DISCIPLES, and said, Behold my mother and my brothers! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in the heavens, the same is my BROTHER AND SISTER AND MOTHER.” (capitalization added by me)
Not only that, but these women would have been apostles of our Lord and Savior as well. The criteria used to define an apostle was one who had been with the Messiah from the beginning of His ministry and who had witnessed His death, burial, and resurrection so that they were His “eye witnesses” to these things.
In fact, these women were the first “eye witnesses” of the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah, for Scripture records that it was the women, those apparently closest to Him, who stood at the foot of the cross, when the men, except for John, had apparently abandoned Him. Scripture then records that it was the women who followed Joseph and Nicodemus to the burial location and saw where He was buried. Yeshua broke all the old “traditions” that a woman's word could not be taken as a witness, for it was to women that He first appeared after the resurrection.
In conclusion, Yeshua's earthly ministry returned to all of His children (female as well as male) the God-ordained right to be taught Scripture, and to speak and witness in His Name. He proved that a woman's witness does count. It was indeed a woman who proclaimed “the good news” of His resurrection for the very first time. He showed that it was OK for a woman to be taught “at the feet” of a Torah teacher along with and at the same time as a man. Indeed, it was a woman, Anna, who was the first to prophesy about the infant Yeshua who was to bring salvation to the world (Luke 2:36-40).
Galatians 3:28 “Here there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”