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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Does The Bible Present Women as Foolish and Flighty?

I came across an interesting article in Christianity Today, the (more or less) official magazine of Evangelical Christianity. It is entitled: "Woman As Folly" by Jana Chapman Gates. In the article, Gates mentions a Bible study that she and her husband attended. They were given a handout with the following Scripture passages:

Gen. 3:17— Then to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife … "

Deut. 13:6— If … the wife you cherish … entice you secretly, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods … "

Job 2:10— He said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks … "

Prov. 9:13— The woman of folly is boisterous; she is naïve, and she knows nothing.

2 Tim. 3:6— … captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses.

She gives her reaction upon reading the handout:

The speaker on the DVD said these verses showed that women should appreciate the desire of men to analyze and provide counsel. But I had a hard time moving beyond the underlying premise, at least as I heard it: Women are foolish. Granted, a verse or two appeared on the following page about how a prudent wife is from the Lord, but that didn't counterbalance the overarching impression that women are at worst, shrewish, at best, naïve. When we began to discuss the lesson, I was more than a little surprised to realize my opinion wasn't the consensus view.

"I think men are more aware than women of their tendency to sin," one of the men suggested. "Maybe they can use this wisdom to help guide their wives."

I couldn't believe this was being discussed as a legitimate idea. I wanted to ask if he really thought that women are blinder than men to their own foibles. Instead, I stared ahead and tried to think of a constructive response.
In the balance of the article, Gates argues that the Bible-study leader was misguided and actually misinterpreted the texts of Scripture.

I think she is engaged in wishful thinking, however. The Bible definitely presents women as inferior to men, or as Peter terms it, "the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7). The woman is thought to be more easily deceived (1 Tim. 2:14) and thus not worthy of the leadership role in the Church (1 Tim. 3:1-2). The woman was created "for" the man (1 Cor. 11:8-9) and she is not to usurp his authority (1 Tim. 2:12). She is to be subject to her husband  in everything (Eph. 5:24).

In the Old Testament, it is even worse. The woman is considered to be the property of her father or husband (Exod. 20:17; 21:7). She has no rights. She cannot divorce her husband. If she is raped and does not cry out loud enough, it is her fault (Deut. 22:24). The list goes on and on.

As Simone de Beauvoir pointed out:

Man enjoys the great advantage of having a god endorse the code he writes; and since man exercises a sovereign authority over women it is especially fortunate that this authority has been vested in him by the Supreme Being. For the Jews, Mohammedans and Christians among others, man is master by divine right; the fear of God will therefore repress any impulse towards revolt in the downtrodden female (The Second Sex 1974, p. 691).


  1. Ken,
    I read her article. The solution to the meaning of "will be saved in childbirth" does not seem to match the context of the verse. (She said maybe it's referring to the birth of Christ.)

    The first site I looked at said it probably means women are to focus on bearing children, taking care of family vs. leading the church instead.

    This is one of many confusing verses in the Bible. What do you think it likely means? It's always confused me and I'm sure many other women.

  2. Lynn,

    I think the context of the verse indicates that the woman's purpose is childbearing and taking care of the home vs. leading the church. Her argument that the definite article in Greek before childbearing means "the childbearing", i.e., a reference to Mary giving birth to Jesus is nonsense. Its a classic case of misunderstanding the nature and function of the Greek definite article.

  3. Thanks, Ken. So it's referring to the role of women.

    To me, this is a tiny example of how you can go off in 10 different directions with a single verse. People do this all the time. They can turn it into meaning that a woman actually accomplishes salvation by bearing children, etc., etc. (And I think maybe the Quivering movement may do just that.)

    You can have everybody reading the Bible with all different denominational backgrounds, different attitudes, different educational levels, different agendas, etc. I think I read that the Catholic Church thought it was a bad idea to put the Bible out there for the common man to interpret. I guess they were worried about losing power, but other than that, maybe they had the right idea.

    Sorry to go on a tangent here, but then I've been in Bible studies where you read a verse, then each person gets to tell what the Holy Spirit is telling THEM from that verse. It really all seems ridiculous when you think of how the Bible is actually used-without considering the origianl audience and what it would mean to them, etc., etc. Very complicated.

    Plus since the average person doesn't know Greek and Hebrew, that's a huge problem in itself, I would think. Like where an article in Greek does not necessarily mean the same as an article in English.

    Anyway, got that off my chest! Thanks again.

  4. In the Bible we find that:
    Males and females were both created in the image of God.
    Women had the right to own land.
    Received inheritance.
    Were prophetesses (in both testaments).
    Were judges.
    Were disciples.
    Were deaconesses.
    Were teachers.
    Worked and owned their own businesses.
    Women were present at the day of Pentecost.
    Books of the Bible are named after women.
    Women were the first at the empty tomb while the male apostles were hiding in fear.

    For these facts, see: Genesis 1:27; Exodus 15:20; Numbers ch. 27; 2nd Kings 22:14; 2nd Chronicles 34:22; Job 42:15; Proverbs 31:16; Isaiah 8:3; Judges 4:4; Luke 2:36; Romans 16:1-2; Acts 1:12-14, 2:1, 16:14, 21:7-9, 9:36, 18:26; Titus 2:3-4...


  5. I, being a heretic, largely discredit the Bible's every word as being inspired by God while still being inspired. I think that man 2,000 years ago was the same as today: keenly desiring to put in his own two cents and perspective.

    I love Paul and believe he was truly inspired by God, but he clearly instructed slaves about how to be good slaves. I don't berate the man for not being the Abraham Lincoln of the Bible, but I don't use his lack of concern for human rights to make a case for my own bigotry.

    Of course, Baptists still do. It's really absurd. I understand why people think the Bible is silly and contradictory. I wish more people used wisdom and were not afraid of so many things.