However, I felt it necessary to write about how women fit into God’s divine plan, not only in life in general, but in the church assembly as well. We need to begin with the social status of women in the pagan cultures of the Old Testament, New Testament, and early church eras. They were treated as third class citizens. In contrast, according to Scripture, God is no respecter of persons regardless of gender, race, and ability, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 NIV Furthermore, Christ and the early church treated women as valued and respected persons. Jesus taught the Samaritan woman at the well, defying the social stigma of the times. The early church attracted women followers, “But when they believed the good news (the Gospel) about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (the Messiah) as Philip preached it, they were baptized, both men and women.” Acts 8:12 AMP Also, they were used in proclaiming the gospel, “Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:3 NIV There is no misogyny or inequality found here.
Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely acts of misogyny found in the Bible. But they are strongly discouraged and condemned. Take Judges 19 and 20 for example. A civil war was started over the raping of a single concubine.
Rights in the Assembly
Those seeking to justify misogyny with the Bible tear single verses from their immediate context, force modern cultural conventions onto ancient cultures, and neglect the initial intent of the message. “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22-24 NIV Simply putting scripture into context eliminates most claims of misogyny in the Bible. Critics love to cite those words to support the claim that the Bible teaches women are to be subjugated to men – “to bring under complete control; to conquer; to enslave”. However, the very next verses command husbands to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church” and to love them “as their own bodies,” providing and caring for them just as Christ does for His church. There’s total respect for the woman.
What about women being respected as church leaders – pastors or elders? “Let a woman learn in quietness, in entire submissiveness. I allow no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to remain in quietness and keep silence [in religious assemblies].” 1st Timothy 2:11,12 AMP Paul wrote these words not as a matter of discrimination. The next verses explains God’s reasoning for this restriction, “For Adam was first formed, then Eve; And it was not Adam who was deceived, but [the] woman who was deceived and deluded and fell into transgression.” Also, some theologians believe the status of the authority of woman was also determined by the fact that she was formed from Adam’s rib to be his helper. A “helper” is not necessarily an equal counterpart in all things, but a complimentary part. It’s o.k. if you disagree with this. I’m just the messenger.
However, several other things come into play when Paul wrote these verses:
* A common argument against these scriptures is that Paul restricts women from teaching because, in the first century, women were typically uneducated. However, if education were a qualification for pastoral or eldership, the majority of Jesus’ disciples would not have been qualified.
* A second common objection is that Paul only restricted the women of Ephesus from teaching men Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, and women were pagan high priestesses. Therefore, the theory goes, Paul was concerned the newly converted pagans may be once again attracted back to their matriarchal worship.
* Yet another objection to this interpretation of women in pastoral ministry cites women who held positions of leadership in the Bible, specifically Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament. It is true that these women where chosen by God for special service to Him in their faith, courage, and leadership. However, the New Testament Epistles present a new authority model and structure for God’s people of the universal church that is unlike that for the nation of Israel or any other Old Testament entity.
* Similar arguments are made using Priscilla and Phoebe in the New Testament. In Acts 18. Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned as faithful ministers for Christ. Did Priscilla and her husband teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to Apollos? Yes, in their home they “explained to him the way of God more adequately” Acts 18:26 Does the Bible ever say that Priscilla pastored a church or taught publicly or became the spiritual leader of a congregation of saints? No.
* 1st Peter 5:1-4 details the qualifications for an elder. Presbuteros is the Greek word used sixty-six times in the New Testament to indicate “seasoned male overseer.” It is the masculine form of the word. The feminine form, presbutera, is never used in reference to elders or shepherds. Based on the qualifications found in 1st Timothy 3:1-7, the role of an elder is interchangeable with the bishop/pastor/overseer Titus 1:6-9; 1st Peter 5:1-3. Thus women are not to be elders. Scripture does not give much support to the idea of women serving as deacons, but it does not necessarily disqualify them. them. Some churches have instituted the office of deaconess, but most differentiate it from the office of deacon.
This does not mean that women are gullible or that they are all more easily deceived than men. If all women are more easily deceived, why would they be allowed to teach children (who are easily deceived) and other women (who are supposedly more easily deceived)? The text simply says that women are not to teach men or have spiritual authority over men because Eve was deceived. God has chosen to give men the primary teaching authority in the church.
Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women. Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, and helps. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit 1st Corinthians 12 Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying 1st Corinthians 11:5 Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, and to proclaim the gospel to the lost.
It is not that men are necessarily better teachers or because women are inferior or less intelligent. It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. This does not make women less important by any means, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His gifting of them.
Those criticizing the Bible for its attitude toward women should consider our modern era. You only have to observe the difference in the treatment and status of women living in nations with a Christian heritage to those living in nations without it. We need to ask ourselves if some men have attempted to misinterpret and skew scripture to justify their misogynistic prejudice. Absolutely. The Israelites, Jesus, nor the early Christian church exhibited misogyny, and the social and spiritual ethics of the Bible leave no room for it. The need to take scripture out of context and twist its meaning shows one has to tear away passages from the rest of the text in order to prove a false point. The Bible cannot be blamed for misogyny or used to prove it. It is completely a man-made proposal. Christianity lays a foundation of human value, equality, and freedom for women. Ethics rooted in a Christian worldview have resulted in levels of female equality that non-Christian cultures do not offer.
Like many social groups of people, woman, even at this point, cannot escape at least some of the effects of personal gender prejudice. It is up to each woman to hold her head up high and shun such attacks and be proud of the unique being and person God has created her to be. And, as with all Christians, continually seek God’s will for their lives so they may fulfill His plan for them and all the other lives who they touch.