Profile of Gospel Women: Joanna, Wife of Chuza
Updated: Oct 26
Who was Joanna?
Gospel References: “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. 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 steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means” (Luke 8:1-3).
“Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles” (Luke 24:10).
We only have these two Gospel passages that mention Joanna, but they are just enough for us to use our imagination and research to guess what she was like, and what her life was like.
Firstly, she is not to be confused with the following: Joanan, son of Rhesa, was one of the ancestors of Jesus listed in Luke’s genealogy (3:27). Joanan lived in about 500 BC. During the time of Jesus, Joanna, or another version of the name, such as “John,” was common for both males and females.
Where did Joanna live?
What city or village was her hometown? Shortly put, it is unknown. It is, however, presumed that as Herod’s steward, Chuza lived in one of Herod’s palaces as the manager of that home. Chuza and his wife, Joanna, were most likely residents in one of Herod’s palaces such as Tiberias or Sepphoris. These two cities were the heart of Greco-Roman culture in Galilee and were Herod Antipas’ personal projects for honoring Caesar. The Jewish historian, Josephus, says that “to be sure, the greatest cities of Galilee, O Justus, were Sepphoris and your country Tiberias.” Sepphoris was the largest city in Galilee, was the capital of Galilee, and large trade center. Perhaps Chuza was the steward of Herod’s main place in Sepphoris. This would have been a convenient location for Joanna, a benefactor of Jesus, as Sepphoris was close in proximity to the major roads and trade networks of the region.
Who was Chuza?
Joanna’s only known relative is her husband, Chuza. Chuza is called, “Herod’s steward,” by Luke (8:3). According to Herbert Lockyer, “steward” also translates to “tutor” and “guardian,” which suggests that Chuza was an intelligent man and he and his wife may have had a close relationship with Herod. The New Oxford Annotated Bible Notes include that the role of steward was to be a “domestic administrator.” The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary provides a list of possible roles for stewards including responsibility over a house, palace, treasure, business, or any particular task.
What was Her Social Status and Wealth?
Luke suggests that Joanna was one of the women who traveled “with” Jesus. Not only in Galilee but Jerusalem, as she was one of the women who told the apostles that Jesus had risen from the dead (Luke 24:10). Joanna must have had monetary resources to provide for Jesus’ ministry. With her husband as the steward of the wealthy tetrarch, Herod Antipas, it makes complete sense that Joanna was wealthy. However, it seems unlikely that a woman would be able to provide for Jesus and travel with Him without her husband’s permission. Therefore, Joanna likely had Chuza’s approval to provide for Jesus’ ministry. Still, it is interesting that Chuza himself is never mentioned as one of Jesus’ disciples. Some questions to consider about Chuza include:
Did Chuza believe in Jesus as the Son of God?
Did Chuza “follow” Jesus and listen to Him speak, but not literally travel with Him?
What if Chuza disapproved of Joanna providing for Jesus’ ministry?
What was Her Relationship with Jesus?
Some scholars suggest that Joanna and Chuza gave testimony to Jesus as witnesses to Herod and his household. Tradition holds that Chuza was stripped of his position as steward due to his wife’s public profession of Christianity. We can deduce that Jesus’ association with one of Herod’s stewards gives evidence that Jesus associated with the local government and politicians, just as He associated with the synagogue ruler, Jairus, and the Pharisee, Nicodemus.
Throughout Luke’s account of the whole crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus, one can assume that Joanna was present. Joanna and the “other women” are not mentioned until they were witnessing to the apostles that Jesus had risen from the dead. Though Luke’s narrative does not emphasize their presence until the end of the death and resurrection scene, it is presumed that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, were at least some of the women who were present throughout Jesus’ whole passion, death and burial. Furthermore, according to Orthodox tradition, Joanna was one of the many “myrrh-bearing” women. Simply because women are not mentioned in the Gospel texts does not mean that they were not present. Joanna may have been at the famous Last Supper and even in the Upper Room, praying with the apostles at Pentecost, as recorded in Acts of the Apostles (1:14).
Also, as Luke mentions in Chapter 8, Joanna is one of the women Jesus cured of evil spirits and infirmities. What exactly the infirmity or spirit is, is unknown, but it was likely the conversion moment for Joanna, offsetting her sponsorship of Jesus and His ministry.
Read the soon-to-be-released novel, Through Esther’s Eyes, to see my take on who Joanna was.
 Herbert Lockyer, All the Women of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967), 78.
 Flavius Josephus, The Life of Flavius Josephus (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1999), 37.
 Joel Kauffman, The Nazareth Jesus Knew. (Nazareth: Nazareth Village, 2005), 12-13.
 Richard A. Batey, “Sepphoris and the Jesus Movement,” New Testament Studies, 46, no. 3 (2001): 402-409,
 Lockyer 78
 The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version, 4th ed, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 1844.
 “Steward,” Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Bible Odyssey, Accessed November 10, 2018, https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/HarperCollinsBibleDictionary/s/steward.
 “Joanna,” Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States, Accessed November 10, 2018, http://suscopts.org/resources/literature/230/joanna/.
 Lockyer 78
 “Early Progress of Christianity,” Christian Observer, 87, no. 14, (1899): 3, http://cmich.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.cmich.idm.oclc.org/docview/136046126?accountid=10181.
 “Joanna” n.p.