Christianity and Judaism are often blamed for promoting sexism, but if you read the Scriptures properly, which is another way of saying, “Chad’s way,” (said with cheeky arrogance) it can be seen that men and women are equal in their value, but women are actually the dominant gender. This will be a strange idea for many people to consider, which is why the next three posts will be exploring this idea. For the record, I’m not saying women are the dominant gender because out of Adam and Eve, God’s two children He directly created (aka not born of a woman), Eve is the youngest, and yes, the youngest in the family is always superior (please don’t tell my sister this; I may be superior, but she can beat me up). I should also point out that I’m not trying to placate to women or compensate for something dumb I’ve done (I do other things for that). I am actually trying to discuss a theological point that I think has been misconstrued by many people.
This week will start with some important Bible misconceptions:
- Wives should submit to husbands: Ephesians 5:22, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord,” is regularly used as proof that Christianity is sexist. Yes, it looks bad, but right before this verse it says, “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph 5:21) The writer, Paul, is telling us to submit to one another and then he specifically tells women to submit to their husbands; why? Because he knows women tend to take charge and men let them. You don’t tell someone who is inferior to submit because they already do that, which is why Paul doesn’t say this specifically to men: (Paul) “Submit to your wives.” (man) “Already done. She gave me a to-do list I’m pretending to do.” To me, this verse suggests even back then the cliché, “Happy wife, happy life,” was the prevailing mindset, which implies female dominance.
- Warnings against the immoral woman: Proverbs 5 and 7 focus on the dangers of the sexual powers of women over men. Proverbs is an Old Testament book of wise teachings, and the author takes two full chapters to warn men against women. You know who aren’t warned? Why? Because women have power over men, which stems from the beginning in the Garden of Eden when Eve told Adam to eat the fruit and without hesitation or regard for God, he followed her. He did this because women have a power over men, which stems from men wanting to make a woman happy… or possibly to avoid being nagged.
- Paul said women shouldn’t teach: In 1Timothy 2:11-12 it says, “Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.” What needs to be remembered is the New Testament letters like 1Timothy were written for specific people in specific cultural dynamics, so we need to be careful not to take a passage out of context and make it universal. For instance, before these verses it says that men should worship God, “free from anger and controversy,” which suggests the men he was writing to were having anger problems. He doesn’t say women should be “free from anger” so does that mean they’re allowed to be full of anger? No, he’s addressing a particular problem. Similarly, the verses about women not teaching comes after Paul saying women should be modest and not showing off their wealth. This suggests the main problem women faced in this community revolved around status and wealth. The verse also suggests women had too much power over men because otherwise why does he need to say “authority over them.” It should also be noted that Paul is not giving a universal truth here because he says “I do not let women…” which means this is his own personal bias and not a truth directly from God. For further discussion on this you can look at this article on 1 Timothy
What I find confusing, is in other places Paul is very clear about supporting women in ministry as discussed in this article at this link. He also wrote, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus,” (Gal 3:28) which means he sees men and women as being equal. Regardless, the Bible is a huge book, which means we need to be careful getting stuck on one verse when we need to consider the greater contexts and purpose of the writers.
My personal belief is that Paul not wanting women in leadership in this community connects to the problem of other religions using shrine prostitutes and making women god-like (e.g. Aphrodite). Throw in the cultural problem of a lot of women not being educated, or if they are, they struggle with pride and showing off, and it makes sense that you wouldn’t want them in leadership at this specific time and place. Saying women shouldn’t be in charge is another way of saying men need to man up and not be acting inferior.
- Special provision for widows: In Psalms 68:5 God is called the “protector of widows,” and in Deuteronomy 16:14 He specifically points out that the Israelites need to be inclusive of the fatherless and the widows. When God points out how far the Israelites have fallen, He uses how they don’t care for the widows (Isa 10:2) as proof. There’s no mention of the widower just the widow. Does this mean women are weak? No, it means God wants to make sure women are properly treated because their role in the family can leave them vulnerable. Readers need to understand that vulnerability doesn’t mean weakness. Masters are vulnerable to their servants as the servants make their food, run their baths, and work in close quarters with them. The servants likely do more work and have more practical skills, but that doesn’t make them above the master. Similarly, women being considered vulnerable doesn’t mean they’re inferior; it means their role in society is different. Regardless, being given special recognition by God suggests they are in a way dominant like the favourite child.
May this week get you thinking that maybe things are different than they’ve been traditionally taught.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people