I was listening to a Sam Harris pod cast about the misogyny he claims that is rampant in the Muslim world. As you may know Harris is very critical of all religious dogma but has focused, recently, on the dangers of that dogma in the Muslim world. He often uses very colorful language such as “makes their woman wear cloth bags” and other such inflammatory statements about how Islam, or at least some parts of it, treat woman. It reminded me of a brief conversation we had about women in the Christian Bible. I seem to remember Kyle claiming that Jesus, in particular, was pro-woman. In reading the Gospels I would have to agree, Jesus did not say a single derogatory or defaming thing about women. In fact, he had very little to say at all and never even mentions women in John’s Gospel and only once in Mark. In Luke and Mathew any references to women are neutral to the role of women in society, or her position in society or salvation versus men.
The Epistles and the Old Testament, however, have plenty to say about women.
As you will see I have located 72 occurrences of references to women as a gender. Several entries are a few verses, so I think it’s safe to say that there are about 100 verses in the Christian Bible that reference women and have something meaningful to say about them. I have tried to objectively classify them as derogatory, neutral or complimentary to women by color coding. I feel there may be only a few that are open for debate, the others are fairly straight forward. My comments, if any are in black
Let’s start with the Old Testament
Deuteronomy 22:5 ESV: “A woman shall not wear a man's garment, nor shall a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.
I must say I didn’t know that cross dressing was forbidden in the Bible. There goes my Saturday nights. I can see, however, the clear reference that froths up Christians in the “transgendered” issue
Interesting, however, neutral, for sure
Exodus 15:20 ESV: Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.
I like woman dancing…no blood….no foul.
Genesis 1:27 ESV: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
We all know the Genesis 1 controversy. Moses wife must have made this edit ans snuck it in ahead of the original anti-woman parts of the Book, Nonetheless this is definitely complementary of woman
Genesis 2:18 ESV: Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
“Helper” is clearly subservient to the “helpee”
Genesis 3:16 ESV: To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
Really God….don’t be so harsh
Genesis 5:1-2 ESV: This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.
God is truly the first feminist in this verse
Isaiah 3:12 ESV: My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.
I originally has this a green, but researched the meaning and the term “woman” is used as an insult to the male leadership.
Proverbs 11:16 ESV: A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches.
Not exactly words to live by, but as for the reference to woman it is positive.
Proverbs 11:22 ESV: Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.
I think any time you compare a woman to a ring in a pig it’s not complimentary
Proverbs 12:4 ESV: An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
I feel like this starts off good for woman but finishes weak….Therefore I made it neutral
Proverbs 18:22 ESV: He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.
Proverbs 19:13 ESV: A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
Can we blame this on Eve?
Proverbs 21:19: It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
Sound advice but what’s a guy to do if he can’t divorce….oh wait in the OT you CAN divorce
Proverbs 21:9 ESV: It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
I guess this “quarrelsome” issue was important enough to put in Proverbs twice!
Proverbs 3:15-18: She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.
Totally “thumbs up”….no ambiguity here.
Proverbs 31:10-31 ESV: An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. ...
Proverbs 31:20 ESV: She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
Proverbs 31:25 ESV: Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
Proverbs 31:26 ESV: She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Proverbs 31:27 ESV: She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
It seems good, but limiting her to the household doesn’t work for me
Proverbs 31:3 ESV: Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings.
Woamn cannot handle power….everybody know that.
Proverbs 31:30 ESV: Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
What’s wrong with charm and beauty? Should we punish our wives for being charming and beautiful
Proverbs 6:20 ESV: My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching.
Now we are back to praising a woman’s teaching
Proverbs 7:21-23 ESV: With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.
They are ALL EVIL!!!!!!!!!!!!
Psalm 46:5: God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
Proverbs 14:1 ESV: The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.
I made this neutral but it does smack of a warning not applicable to men, only women.
Now let’s have a look at the Epistles of Paul. As I’m sure you know there is some controversy among scholars as to the authenticity of the letters of Paul that became canon. It goes something like this:
Seven letters (with consensus dates) considered genuine by most scholars:
First Thessalonians (c. 50 AD)
Galatians (c. 53)
First Corinthians (c. 53–54)
Philippians (c. 55)
Philemon (c. 55)
Second Corinthians (c. 55–56)
Romans (c. 57)
The letters on which scholars are about evenly divided
The letters thought to be pseudepigrapha by about 80% of scholars
For purposes of this essay I will consider all but Ephesians, Firth Timothy. Second Timothy and Titus as authentic to see if a pattern emerges
1 Corinthians 11:3-10 ESV: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. ...
Not too bad, but the last line turned me from neutral to derogatory.
1 Corinthians 11:11 ESV: Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman;
Must have read his early books of Genesis that day!
1 Corinthians 14:33-35 ESV: For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
Because a person has a uterus they are forbidden to speak in Church?
Colossians 3:18 ESV: Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Try this on your wife tonight….see what happens
Colossians 3:19 ESV: Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Galatians 3:26-29: For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
I like where he’s going here!
Romans 16:1-16 ESV: I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. ...
They can save Paul’s life, but don’t you dare speak in church
Generally, however, positive towards woman
Reading this as the inerrant Word of God and as a guidepost for all time Paul does not offer us a clear perspective on how women should be treated and their role in a just society. This is where I have the problem. If I read it in a historical context as a piece of literature written in the first century I would take note of the role of women in Jewish society of that time. I would find women with little role and even less respect among men. Paul’s letters, although lukewarm by today’s standards of feminism were likely viewed as radical to even hint that there is equality between men and woman would have been viewed very poorly
Pseudepigrapha Epistles. Commentary unnecessary. Most of these are blatantly anti-woman.
1 Timothy 2:11 ESV: Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.
1 Timothy 2:11-12 ESV: Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
1 Timothy 2:11-14 ESV: Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
1 Timothy 2:11-15 ESV: Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
1 Timothy 2:1-15 ESV: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, ...
1 Timothy 2:12 ESV: I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
1 Timothy 2:13 ESV: For Adam was formed first, then Eve;
1 Timothy 2:13-14 ESV: For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
1 Timothy 2:9 ESV: Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,
1 Timothy 2:9-15 ESV: Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; ...
1 Timothy 3:11 ESV: Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.
1 Timothy 5:1-2 ESV: Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
1 Timothy 5:14 ESV: So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.
2 Timothy 1:5 ESV: I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
Ephesians 5:22-24 ESV: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, ...
Ephesians 5:25 ESV: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
Ephesians 5:28 ESV: In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Titus 2:3-5 ESV: Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Titus 2:3-8 ESV: Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, ...
Titus 2:4-5 ESV: : And so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Wow! Whoever wrote these letter was old school Pharisee for sure. The tone is to place woman subservient to men. It is hard to reconcile the genuine Epistles with these if, in fact, they were written by the same person. Those scholars agree are likely not written by Paul are most clear misogynistic.
Other NT books
1 Peter 3:1-6 ESV: Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, ...
1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV: Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
The Gospels: As mentioned earlier the Gospels are generally neutral on the role of woman, but notably, are NOT derogatory. Jesus was either complimentary in a quiet way (as was his way in all but John), or silent on the role of women in his Salvation plan.
Luke 10:38-42 ESV: Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 2:36-38 ESV: And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke 23:49 ESV: And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
Luke 8:1-3 ESV: Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And 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 household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Mark 15:40-41 ESV: There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
I wonder what the woman “ministered” to God incarnate that would be useful to him in his omniscience.
Matthew 27:55 ESV: There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him,
Matthew 27:55-56 ESV: There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
I made this red because of its connotation of woman as a temptress. Perhaps a leftover from Genesis, but I cannot see this as neutral since there is no equivalent command for men. It is clearly not overtly complimentary, but it isn’t harmless either.
Other NT Books
1 Peter 3:7-8 ESV: Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
I agree with many Biblical scholars that this book was NOT written by the Apostle Peter. My main reason is that Peter was an illiterate fisherman and it would put this book dating to before Paul’s epistles.
It’s also a backhanded compliment to women as indicated by my green and red coloring in the verse above.
Acts 1:12-14 ESV: Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Acts 16:14 ESV: One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
Acts 18:26 ESV: He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
These characters are said to be traveling with Paul….concubines perhaps?
Acts 21:7-9 ESV: When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day. On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.
Acts 9:36 ESV: Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.
Based on this assessment it would not be fair to call the Bible neutral or favorable for women. The Old Testament and the Epistles support women in a role clearly subservient to men. There is simply no basis for an argument to the contrary. There may be passages that are complementary to women, however, as shown above those degrading women to men far outnumber them. This is yet another instance where the Bible can be used to theologically justify opposing views. I can defend my position, citing scripture, to be a feminist or a misogynist. Yet another example of the muddied “objective” morality of the Bible. This is what we get for trying to square the circle of 21st century issues with 1st century ethics. Kyle has said that we can’t blame God for people misinterpreting the Bible. Consider for a moment that it is you who have misinterpreted it and those who have used it to justify misogyny, slavery, genocide and murder have done so correctly and at the command of the Almighty. We may not be able to blame God for our interpretation, however, we can blame him for providing such an unclear and ambiguous revelation. I remind you of a writing from the Jians, an ancient religion of India. It states: "Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being." Imagine how different our world might be if the Bible contained this as its central precept. Christians have abused, oppressed, enslaved, insulted, tormented, tortured, and killed people in the name of God for centuries, on the basis of a theologically defensible reading of the Bible. You would think in His omniscience, he could have been more clear.