Women and The Bible
The Bible and the church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the
way of woman’s emancipation.

A famous 19th century feminist named Elizabeth Cady Stanton voiced this
about her struggle for women’s freedom. Women, considered a lower class than the
men, wanted this subjugation changed. Part of the reason for the subjugation of
women is that the Bible could be interpreted in many different ways to suit the
needs of the interpreter. These interpretations of the Bible are in part
responsible for the belief that women are of a lower class than men. The reason
this belief is present in our society is that approximately 85% of Americans are
Judeo-Christian. We see examples of these beliefs when we look at the church,
the daily lives of women, and the media. Looking at 1 Timothy 2:11-12, we see
why our religious society could interpret the Bible this way:
Let a woman learn in silence with all submission, and do not permit a woman to
teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.

We must look at the historical context of the passage. Written
approximately 2000 years ago, many parts of the Bible seem outdated. The passage
portrays a time when women were property and were trained to be weak and
fragile. This stopped only about 30 years ago. Before this time, society taught
women from birth to be submissive to men. What does this mean to us today? It
means that although American Society is no longer training women to be
submissive, the problem is still present in our belief system. Many churches do
not believe that women should be part of the clergy. This is because they
interpret parts of the Bible, such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12, as saying that only men
should preach. In 1848, women made a retaliation to these sentiments. At the
Seneca Falls convention, women (including Elizabeth Cady Stanton) signed a
Declaration of Sentiments. In the declaration it states:
He allows her in church, as well as state, but a subordinate position,
claiming apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry,
and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the
affairs of the church(Declaration 1)
The people that these women fought against, including other women,
believe that it is the duty of a woman to be quiet and submissive. I have
experienced this anti-freedom dogma growing up in the Church of Christ community.

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I experience this dogma when I talk with my grandmother, a woman who lives by
the Word. My grandmother states that I should be a good girl and keep my mouth
shut and clean. She says that if I am quiet and do not tell my opinions, people
will like me better that way. My grandmother tries to teach the same submissive
qualities that were taught to her when she was young. We, as a society, also see
this in media. In the November 5, 1996 airing of the sitcom Cybil, the future
stepmother of Cybil’s daughter was giving advice to the daughter. The advice was
that women should let men win arguments. Cybil, enraged, made told her daughter
that she did not have to submit.

Along with the belief that women must be submissive and silent, there is
also the belief that women are the cause of men’s downfall and therefore are
evil. The last two verses we look at talk about the story of the fall of Adam
and Eve. In the story of Adam and Eve, God tells Adam and Eve that there is one
tree in the garden of which they must not eat. Deceived by the devil, Eve eats
fruit from the tree and then persuades Adam to eat it. This act historically
displays the deception of man by woman and has put women in a very bad light. I
Timothy 2:13-14 states:
For Adam was formed from Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman
being deceived, fell into transgression.

Meant for a different time, the basic belief that women are the cause of
men’s downfall is obsolete. Some people say that this belief is not present in
our society. I have heard men say that the reason that they are in the mess
they are in is because of women’s folly. Many popular Hollywood movies today
reflect these misogynistic attitudes and use themes that portray women as evil
and deceiving. In these films, women want nothing else but to destroy men and
the order of society. One popular movie called Eve of Destruction, portrays a
woman named Eve as a mechanical tool of destruction that destroys anything that
gets in her path. The name Eve in this film indicates a link to the Eve of the
Bible, connotating treachery and deception and seen as a bane to man’s existence.

Not all the Bible portrays women as submissive and evil. Many still
believe that women must obey their husbands and live a life of subservience. If
people look to this interpretation of the Bible for guidance, women will remain
treated as inferior. I am not saying that we need to get rid of the Bible, I am
saying that we need to get rid of interpretations of the Bible that are
derogatory towards women; like the belief that women are not equal.

Social Issues

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The topic of women in church and society constitutes, conceivably, the single most important theological query of our century. Certainly, some scholars have compared it to the Gentile question in the early days of Christianity. Not amazingly, as arguments rooted in Scripture were used to continue the practice of forcing Gentiles to undergo circumcision as a condition of salvation, so too nowadays scriptural arguments are advanced to validate the age-old practice of excluding women from certain leadership as well as ministerial roles in church and society.

The Bible as the personification of the revealed will of God therefore plays a crucial role for Christians in their approach to the women issue today, to aspire to understand correctly what the Bible in point of fact says regarding the divine will for women. Luckily for the Gentiles, Paul, a God-inspired leader and scholar, was able to show on the same scriptural grounds that the law-inspired impositions laid on the Gentiles were actually opposed to the universal will of God contained in the promise to Abraham.

At present, if the women issue is to get its true understanding from God’s standpoint, as the Gentile question did, then it too will need God-inspired leaders and scholars who, like Paul, will be capable to reveal truthfully, objectively, and persuasively on the same scriptural grounds that the sustained practice of excluding women is in truth opposed to the expressed will of God revealed in the Scriptures and in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary. (Conrad Hyers, 1984).

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This task calls for a close rereading in their literary and cultural contexts, Jewish and patriarchal, of those passages that handle women, mainly those that are said to exemplify the eternal and divine will for them in creation. It as well calls for a close observation of the way in which God in fact relates with and uses women to effect the divine plan of salvation for humanity. From God’s own actions exposed in the Scriptures, it must be probable to distinguish rightly what God’s will for women really is. The Constitutive Significance of Eve

The story of Eve, the first woman created by God and named “mother of all the living”, comprises a natural starting point for a study on women in the Bible. All through the centuries and in the Judaeo-Christian traditions particularly, the story of her creation and fall has been used as the divine norm for determining the role and standing of women in church and society. Traditional and popular belief views Eve, woman, as a being inferior to Adam, man, physically, socially, ethically, mentally, and spiritually.

Details of this inferiority are carefully worked out by the rabbis and by the fathers of the church, whose teachings have formed and nurtured centuries of opinion regarding women. The reasons presented for this belief are that the man was created first, the woman second, out of the man’s rib, therefore destined to serve only as his helper. Therefore, the woman is supposed to have no identity of her own, however to derive her being from the man and exist merely for him, to serve his personal and domestic needs and bear and rear his children.

Her formation from the man’s rib, somewhat than from his head, for example, is seen by the rabbis as representative of her essentially inferior status, lest she be proud or “that she should be modest. ” Ultimately, it is observed that as the ethically weaker sex, Eve, not Adam, succumbed to the devil’s deceit and so became the source of sin and death in the world. All the ills of humanity, together with the sinfulness of the man himself, are consequently to be blamed on the woman. (Conrad Hyers, 1984).

Noticeably this belief in the innate inferiority of the woman and in her elite instrumentality for sin and death is footed on a misreading of the Genesis accounts of creation and the fall and on failure to distinguish the distinctive purpose of each of these narratives. For the creation accounts taken at their face value furnish no grounds whatever for this belief. To a certain extent, they make basic statements regarding the nature of humanity in relation to God and the rest of creation, and regarding the personal relationship between man and woman.

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