I received this interesting challenge to my article The Inextricable Sexism of the Bible. I will respond line by line:
I missed your point in your article. You make the assertion and give support for why the Bible is sexist against women. What was your point? Was there a point? If not, it is okay. If you were just trying to enlighten people who maybe previously had no idea, then that is fine, but I may challenge it.
I stated my point in the first sentence. Here it is again: “The Bible is an ancient book written by primitive men with primitive morals, chief amongst them being a thoroughly sexist view of women.” The implication, of course, being that the Bible is not the “Word of God” in any meaningful sense of the word. It is the product of primitive men with primitive morals and should be understood as such. It should never be used as a “moral guide” or interpreted as the “Word of God.”
How do you define sexism or being sexist (and in your context against/ towards women)? If you compare standards found in Bible times compared to today’s standards of how we are told to treat women, anyone could make the argument that the Bible is sexist toward women. But if you compare the Bible’s standard toward women against the cultural background of the time that the Bible was written in, do you get the same results?
Sexism is discrimination based on sex. I don’t see how it would be relevant if the “standards” in the Bible happened to be better than other primitive societies of that time and local. It’s still primitive and therefore not the “inspired Word” of any God. Riane Eisler in The Chalice and the Blade argues that egalitarian societies once flourished until they were destroyed by the tribes of warrior barbarians not dissimilar to the description of the Hebrews in the Bible. In any case, there is no sign of any divine guidance in the Bible. The modern social progress for the liberation of blacks, women, and gays is driven primarily by the evolution of secular morality, and typically opposed by Christians. Remember, the fight for abolition was fought against the ruling Christians.
You say early on that there is an order of hierarchy in the Bible. Male: God, Male: Christ, Male: man, and woman: is the subject. I would first challenge the notion that God is male. While the male pronoun like He is often used to refer to God, that does not make God male. The male pronoun is the main, default pronoun to use if no gender is known or is not important to context. Only more recently with feminine movements and people being over sensitive have people been more careful to say his or her (for instance) when writing. God is also called our heavenly father. This is more a comparison of God’s role in our lives in relation to us. It is not to assign God gender. This is arguable I am sure. Moving on…
While I agree that Scripture may not define God as “male” per se, he is definitely modeled on the concept of masculinity. He is a warrior, a king, a priest, a husband. He is called “Father” by Jesus throughout the NT. There are only a few tangential references that could be construed as feminine, and they are notable for their rarity. Far and away, the “God” of the Bible is masculine through and through.
As for the use of male pronouns – if God wanted to present himself as female, what was stopping him? The closest we see is the feminine “Wisdom” of the OT, but that is best identified with the literally male “son” of the NT, so that doesn’t work. And even the Spirit, which is a feminine noun in both Hebrew and Greek, is referred to with the masculine noun parakletos (comforter) and pronoun ho (he) (John 15:26).
As for God’s role, that is decidedly masculine, as many commentators have elaborated. The church is “feminine” (passive) and God is masculine (active)
You also quote Ephesians 5 where it says that women are to submit to their husbands. I may add that you lack balance in quoting from the Bible. You missed the verse Ephesians 5:21 “submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God”
I didn’t miss that verse at all. It is referring to Christian men submitting to other Christian men. This is made explicit in context. It is not teaching that Christian women should submit to Christian men other than their husbands and certainly not that any Christian men should submit to any Christian women. That would be quite absurd. Here is what is says. It begins with a general admonition to Christian men to submit themselves to one another, and then immediately clarifies that the women should not submit themselves to other men, but to their own husbands only. I highlight the admonition to men in italics:
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:19-25)
Note the strong distinction. “Wives” are spoken to directly, as distinct from the general discourse that preceded. Would it make any sense to admonish everyone to submit themselves to each other, and then immediately follow that with an admonition to the wives to specifically submit themselves to their own husbands? And then to repeat that the man is the head and the woman the subject? Is there anything in that passage that would have been read by a first century Jew as teaching that men should submit themselves to their wives? Is there any other verse in the entire Bible that would support such an interpretation?
You quote the Bible and select passages like the Bible is teaching that man can use women like doormats or as objects. Correct me if I am wrong to infer this from you. I do not think one can read Ephesians chapter 5 and can properly infer that from the context of Ephesians 5.
I did not draw that specific conclusion from Ephesians 5. It is implied most strongly in this passage from the OT in which Yahweh tells soldiers that they can take a captured woman, have sex with her, and dispose her like a filthy rag if he finds no “delight” in her:
And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her. (Deuteronomy 21:14)
In the OT, the term “humbled” (anah) in this context means he “screwed” her.
In Luke’s gospel account, he tells more stories of Jesus taking His time to help women and children showing Jesus’ human, compassionate nature and how Jesus cared for what society called “the least of these.” At the very least, Jesus spent time trying to teach His disciples what is true greatness. He said being a servant is what makes you great. So, think about that as you may. Women, who were often treated as the least, these are the ones who Jesus said would be the greatest. Again, think about it some more.
I agree that the third Gospel has that character. I wrote a lot about it. I even wrote a section of my Bible Wheel book called Luke: The Gospel of Women. So I know what you are talking about. And that is a very good thing. But it does not undo the sexism found throughout the rest of the Bible. On the contrary, it shows how inconsistent the book really is.
When the men dragged the woman sinner (prostitute) to Jesus to condemn her, Jesus didn’t get in on the bandwagon and slap the “good ol’ boys on the back.” No, He saw the sin in the hearts of the men, and He saw the heart of the woman who was “caught in sin.” He said who is without sin, cast the first stone. One by one, the accusers walked away. Jesus forgave the woman and told her to sin no more.
And where was the man? The text says that they were “caught in the very act.” Why didn’t Jesus point out their hypocrisy in condemning the woman but not the man? In any case, I don’t see how his kindness to this sinner was any different than any other, or now it contradicts anything in my article. To reflect your question to me, what is your point?
The Pericope de Adultera in John 8 is a very strange passage. It is not found in the earliest manuscripts and it is found misplaced in later manuscripts, such as at various places near the end of Luke.
I think you have stumbled on an interesting topic in the Bible that many fundamentals do not bring up for the sake of becoming uncomfortable. How do men who revere the Bible teach such passages that do not look at women as favorably as men? Is the Bible wrong? Is today’s society wrong? Is everybody wrong? Are we all nut jobs seeking to make our position look better than everybody else’ position?
I don’t think we are all nutjobs. If we are open to correction and reality and other points of view, who knows what we will learn. My main point is that taking the Bible as the “Word of God” is obviously wrong.
I would be careful about quoting passages from 1 Corinthians and Timothy that assert certain women protocol and behaviors. 1 Corinthians was written to a church in a context that had multiple problems. Back then, women who didn’t wear head coverings were considered to be not properly dressed. It would be like women showing up in church dressed like a hooker. Cultural times do not let us catch these things as easily. Civil laws change over time. Think about how that passage might have been written if to today’s church. Moving on… And when it says that women should not have authority over the man and should not speak out, we have to look at the problem of the original context. Church services were getting out of hand. There was no order. The famous line of “let the women keep silence in the church” comes from a context that did not seek out to degrade women. It is in the context of keeping an orderly service. It would be no different than for me to say that this meeting is only so long, we will only have so much time for questions and comments, so I would ask that only the leaders ask questions. This is not to degrade against everyone who is not a leader. It is just a needed solution to the chaos that was erupting in the church services back then. Back then, the leaders of the home were the “men.” The context is not implying that the women do not matter as much or are not important. The context is just establishing a rule of conduct.
Yes, context is exceedingly important. So let’s look once again at the context, as explained in my original article. The creation myth blames the woman for all the sin in the world and says God himself placed two curses upon her: 1) the pain of childbirth and 2) male domination:
To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Gen 3:16)
This verse cannot be explained away because its plain meaning is confirmed and applied in the New Testament where it is used as a justification for why women are not allowed to teach or have authority over men in Christian churches:
Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. (1 Tim 2:11-15)
Women are not allowed to teach because 1) males have primacy because Adam was created first and 2) women are not reliable teachers because they are easily deceived, like Eve. And it completes the picture of the creation myth when it says “woman will be saved through childbearing” (which is the only value they had according to some church fathers, see below). That women must be silent and in submission to men is confirmed and explained as being “in the law” in 1 Corinthians:
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. (1 Corinthians 14:34)
As far as I know, you did not deal with any of this contextual information that makes Paul’s intent quite clear, or so it seems to me.
I hope this is making sense. It is important to quote within context.
Indeed. Context is Queen.