Does the Bible, or God Himself, demean women?
In the first article, “What is Life?” of our The Gospel Truth Series we discussed what Biblical Scripture really does say about abortion, when does life start, and how that defines the value of life. In today’s society we are told that abortion is apart of women’s rights, their right of choice, but if God hold’s such a negative view on abortion does that translate to a negative or subservient view of women? Are the uber feminists correct in believing that the Christian religion is a dominantly patriarchal structure that demeans and devalues the woman?
In the past couple of weeks I have studied my bible, as well as sought out the apologetics bible for some clarification, listened to religious podcasts, and read a variety of books from strong Christian women who hold even stronger views of a woman’s place in the everyday practice of biblical theology. It is safe to say that from my studies I have seen no sign or read no verse that belittles the female percentage of the human population. That being said I feel I must qualify this answer to help you, my wonderful reader, understand that yes, in the past, bible verses have been misused to suggest the inferiority of the female sex compared to our male counter parts.
Lets be honest Eve has been used as an example of poor judgement since the dawn of time (hello!). Verses such as those listed below have been commonly abused to push the ideology of the male being the superior sex.
• Genesis 3:16 – Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will dominate you.
• 1 Corinthians 11:3 – The man is the head of the woman.
• 1 Corinthians 14:35- It is disgraceful for a women to speak in the church meeting.
• Ephesians 5:22- Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.
• 1 Timothy 2:12- I do not let a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent.
I have to admit when I read that second verse I giggle. All I can think of is the Mama from My Big Fat Greek Wedding when she tells her daughter, ” The man, he maybe the head of the household, but the woman, she is the neck and she can turn the head what ever direction she wants.” That, I am sure, is not the exact quote but you know the scene I am talking about, don’t you? When the father has refused to allow her to see the man she loves because he isn’t greek, and Mama just steps right in and calms her daughter with the advice that Dad may have the final say but you just leave everything to me. Wink. Wink.
But that brings us back to a woman’s “place,” doesn’t it? Why does the man have the final say? Why do I have to make my decisions based on the thought, opinions, and feelings of a man? I’m a strong independent woman who don’t need no man! *Snaps*
To understand this we have to go all the way back to the beginning. Yes, the creation ( which in itself is a whole other discussion we will take on in a later article). Very simply God created light, darkness, water, and earth, animals of all kinds, and then there was Man. What did God think about all his wonderful creations? That it was good (Genesis 1).Boom! Everything is great, right? Nope. It wasn’t complete yet. Something was missing and God already knew what would finish His beautiful masterpiece; woman.
God had created Adam from the dust of the earth but Eve was different, God took a rib from Man’s chest (by his heart!) which he then used to create the woman. She was a helper for Adam in the garden of Eden. She was his counter part and equal (Genesis 2:18, 21-22). This is even more evident in what it is said of both man and woman: they were created in His image, according to His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). Now if God wanted man to be dominate in every way would He have created woman in his likeness as well, or would he have left that privilege only for man? Now, from what I have gathered from all of this is that Men and Women are equal in God’s kingdom.
So if we are both equal in the kingdom of God why then does the Bible tell men to be dominant, and women to be subservient to their husbands/fathers/male guardians will? Are we supposed to be in some kind of Sheria law based society? Are we supposed to be a slave to the men we marry? ( Both of these subjects will be delved into more deeply in future articles)
To tell the truth these misconceptions come more from the rigid teachings of past churches and not from what the Scripture says itself. God created men and women as equals; woman comes from man’s side not his head or his feet. But He did gift us with different qualities so that together we made a whole, and separate we are not complete. The Bible gives rules, and guidance to the proper behavior of women, which I am sure we have all heard and rolled our eyes over at one point in time or another, but what we, as women, forget is that the Bible gives just as many rules and guide lines for men.
While the scripture instructs women to be respectful and submissive, ( A wildly misunderstood word in the biblical context which is better explained and expanded upon in the book Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary by Aimee Byrd) it also instructs men to love, lead, protect, and provide for women. A man’s leadership is not supposed to be domineering, but loving. Our relationships as man and wife, man and woman, are supposed to mirror the relationship Christ had with the church. He loved, nurtured it, and died for it. In the Apologetics Bible there is an article by Marla Alupoaicei on Does the Bible Demean Women? Here she quotes Sharon James on the gender roles of men and women in the Bible:
“The Bible explains the meaning behind gender distinctions. Masculine strength can be for protection and provision. Many women are gifted with the ‘helper design’ — relational capacities to nurture and care.”
It is my personal belief that we, as women, have become so zealous in our quest of being “equal” counterparts to men in the business and social realms that we have turned to see femininity as a bad quality, or as something that holds us back. It is one of many misconceptions I believe the feminism movement has garnered over the years. We forget, as Christians, that societies definition of certain concepts and words, and the biblical definition are two very different things. We also forget the influence women have had in the bible; in, both, the Old and New Testament.
We have women from both, rich and poor backgrounds, that God honored by using them to achieve great things. We have people like Rehab a prostitute who helped the Israelites take down Jericho, who then turned from her life of Idol worship and prostitution to become a pillar of society and the Mother of Boaz (Book of Joshua). In that family line we also have Ruth, the wife of Boaz, who was blessed with the love of that man, and to be apart of the Genealogy of Christ after God saw her great respect and love she had for her mother-in-law, not Rehab but Naomi (Book of Ruth — Yes, she got her own book in the Bible! Don’t tell me women aren’t important. *SNAP*). In the Old Testament there is also Esther, a jew who became queen and used that status to save her people ( yet another woman who has her own book in the bible). There is also Deborah a greatly respected Prophet, a female Prophet! (And you guessed it, another woman with her own book in the Old Testament!).
These were strong women God used to fulfill his purpose, but to really understand how God values women I think we have to look at Jesus Christ himself, and his interaction with women. The New Testament is full of examples of godly women who helped support Jesus and the disciples ( and were followers if not disciples themselves). We have examples of women who furthered the gospel by acts of mercy, prayer, financial support, and other such ministries. All of which were commended for their contributions to Gods Kingdom. In Luke 2: 36-38 there is Anna, Phoebe in Romans 16:1, in Acts 9:36-41 we have Tabitha/Dorcas, Lydia in Acts 16:13-15, Susanna and Joanna in Luke 8:3, and of course Mary Magdalene in John 20:11-18. (and that’s only to name a few, there were so many more!)
I think, to really understand if the Bible debased women, we have to ask, “Did Jesus belittle women?” I mean, He is God incarnate, right? So wouldn’t Jesus’ treatment of women be a strong , if not exact, indicator of God’s feelings towards the weaker sex?
And the verdict is… Jesus did NOT scorn or abase the feminine population of Gods children; no, he actually, rather powerfully, affirmed their worth! His level of interaction with women was actually shocking to his disciples, and the religious leaders of that time, alike. He involved them in the discussions He had about the significant issues of the time, as well as the relational issues of Heaven and earth, God and His children, and the truth of the words He spoke (Matthew 9:22; John 4:7-29).
So lets take it back to the basics: Jesus Christ not only valued, but affirmed women. He had conversations with them and treated them as equals in His teachings of Gods Kingdom. Understanding Jesus’ behavior towards both sexes helps us, as christian believers, act respectfully and value the different roles men and women have in the body of Christ. For isn’t He the ultimate example of conduct that we as Christians, both male and female, should be following?
My point in this article is that although God calls for great standards on how we are to act, and appreciate the value of life while we are here on earth, that does not mean He has subjugated the female population of the human species to a life of drudgery or disregard. Woman you are a beautiful and integral part of God’s design. We are no less nor better than our male counterparts. We have been blessed with different roles and responsibilities, none of which declare us lacking in any way!