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Women in the Bible

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Adam Eva, Durer, 1504
Part of a series on
Christianity
and Gender
Theology

Women in Christianity
Women in the Bible
Jesus' interactions with women
Female disciples of Jesus
Paul of Tarsus and women
Image of God
List of women in the Bible
Women as theological figures

4 Major Positions

Christian Egalitarianism
Christian Feminism
Complementarianism
Biblical patriarchy

Church and Society

Christianity and homosexuality
Ordination of women
Women in Church history

Organizations

Christians for Biblical Equality
Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus

Theologians and authors
Feminist:
Letha Dawson Scanzoni · Anne Eggebroten · Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
Egalitarian:
William J. Webb · Kenneth E. Hagin · Gordon Fee · Frank Stagg · Paul Jewett · Stanley Grenz · Roger Nicole
Complementarian:
Don Carson · John Frame · Wayne Grudem · Douglas Moo · Paige Patterson · Vern Poythress

The role examples of 188 named[1] Women in the Bible, and a host of others left unnamed, identify prominent queens, prophetesses, judges, and military leaders, and also a multitude of women who both paved the way for the founding of Christianity and preached its message. Some, such as the mortal mother of Jesus of Nazareth, have been considered more than mere mortals, while others have been virtually ignored in their faith and good deeds. Many women of the Bible proved themselves more than equal to the challenges and trials of their day. Many were considered touched by the hand of God and were full of faith, determination, and courage that helped them to overcome the adversity of the prejudiced era in which they lived.

This article considers some of the specific roles of women described in the Bible, along with some of the more apparent attitudes held about them.

Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)

The Hebrew Bible (also called Tanakh in Judaism, Old Testament in Christianity and Taurat/Tawrah in Islam) is the basis for both Judaism and Christianity, and a cornerstone of Western culture. Through its stories and its elaboration of statutes, the Hebrew Bible's views on women have helped shape gender roles and define the legal standing of women in the West for millennia. This influence has waned somewhat as Western culture has become progressively more secular, beginning at the Enlightenment.

The views of women presented in the Hebrew Bible are complex and often ambivalent. However, the question of women's status relative to men remains a central and controversial issue in any approach to this text, from apologetics and Christian beliefs to feminism and atheism.

Eve and Genesis

Creation narratives

The creation of Adam and Eve is narrated from somewhat different perspectives in Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 2:24. The Genesis 1 narration declares the purpose of God, antedating the creation of the sexes.[2] It has been called the "non-subordinating" view of woman.[3] God gave the human pair joint responsibility and "rulership" over his creation.

The Fall of humanity

Eve's weakness has sometimes been blamed for causing Adam's fall, and thus for humanity's fall into original sin.[4] This claim was frequently made during the Middle Ages and was a subject in John Milton's classic epic, Paradise Lost.

Old Testament post-creation views

The Bible is the only book in the world up to our century which looks at women as human beings, no better and no worse than men, according to classicist Edith Hamilton. She writes that the Old Testament writers considered them just as impartially as they did men, free from prejudice and even from condescension.[5] However, it cannot be said that the society and culture of Old Testament times were consistently favorable to women.

The status of woman in the Old Testament is not uniform. There is a male bias and a male priority generally present in both the private life and public life of women. However, it never becomes absolute. In the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) of Exodus 20, both male priority and gender balance can be seen. In the tenth commandment, a wife is depicted in the examples of a neighbor's property not to be coveted: house, wife, male or female slave, ox or donkey, or any other property. In this perspective, wife along with other properties belongs to the husband. On the other hand, the fourth commandment does not make any distinction between honor to be shown to parents: "father and your mother." This is consistent with the mutual respect shown for both parents throughout the Old Testament.[3]

New Testament

Jesus' interactions with women

According to New Testament scholar Dr. Frank Stagg and classicist Evelyn Stagg, the synoptic Gospels of the canonical New Testament[6] contain a relatively high number of references to women. The Staggs find no recorded instance where Jesus disgraces, belittles, reproaches, or stereotypes a woman. These writers claim that examples of the manner of Jesus are instructive for inferring his attitudes toward women and show repeatedly how he liberated and affirmed women.[3]

Jesus accepted the gifts of loving service and gentleness that women offered Him. Twenty-four times in the Gospel of Luke alone, Jesus either met a woman, talked about a woman, or mentioned a woman in a parable. All of these 24 times are instructive and positive.[7]

Jesus’ sense of manhood was never threatened by the tenderness of a woman. Luke told of a woman who came into a banquet, knelt, wept over Jesus’ feet, bathing them with her tears, and then anointed them with perfume before drying them with her hair.[Lk 7:36—50] This was her act of repentance. Jesus allowed her to do this without any trace of disgust or embarrassment. While no rabbi of Jesus’ day is known to have included women among his disciples,Jesus included women in His circle of followers—even women from questionable backgrounds.[7]

In contrast to current attitudes, Jesus is never exploitative of women. He is the one man who dared to talk openly with the woman at the well in John 4. He breached every standard of His culture by doing that. And yet the woman, even while she was being exposed for everything that she was—a woman with multiple marriages and a sordid life—was never threatened. Jesus never humiliated her. He simply lifted her out of her filth and gently clothed her in the righteousness of her Heavenly Father.... Jesus never intimidated or sexually threatened a woman, and He was never threatened or intimidated by a woman. ...Jesus lifted and affirmed every woman who came to Him.[7]

Women in the New Testament Church

From the beginning of the early Christian church, women were important members of the movement. As time went on, groups of Christians organized within the homes of believers. Those who could offer their home for meetings were considered important within the movement and assumed leadership roles.

Apostle Peter on women

Submission to husband:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives...."[1 Pet. 3:1]

Women as weaker partner:

"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."[1 Pet. 3:7]

See also

References

  1. "Women in the Bible." WebBible Encyclopedia. Sept. 22, 2009.
  2. Starr, L. A. The Bible Status of Woman. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1926
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Stagg, Evelyn and Frank. Woman in the World of Jesus. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978
  4. Smith, Russell E. Jr. "Adam's Fall." ELH: a Journal of English Literary History, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), pp. 527-539
  5. Quoted in Tanner, Stephen L. Women in Literature of the Old Testament. University of Idaho, 1975. ERIC ED112422.
  6. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Doug Clark. "Jesus and Women." EnrichmentJournal. Web: 15 Nov. 2009.

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