DEBUNKING FIVE COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE AND WOMEN
This is not one of those “woke”, “Go feminism!”, “women rule!” articles. So if that is what you came here looking for you might as well leave right now. But if what you seek is the full Biblical context of half truths flying around from skeptics and non believers then this is just the right place for you. Without further ado let us examine some of the greatest misrepresentations of the Bible and Christianity with respect to women.
- WOMEN MUST SUBMIT TO MEN
I challenge the 5.7 + billion people on the planet to show me any scripture saying women must submit to men. It simply does not exist! What the Bible instructs is for Wives to submit to THEIR OWN husbands (Eph 5:22, Col 3:18). No man is given Biblical authority over all the women of the world, neither is a woman obligated to submit to a man that is not her husband. There are also two important caveats to this the skeptics would never tell you.
(i) it instructs wives to submit to their own husbands “AS IS FITTING IN THE LORD” or “AS TO THE LORD” depending on what scripture you are reading. This means in matters of domestic violence or abuse or where a wife’s life is in danger from her husband, there is a lot of practical wisdom to be employed, there is no scriptural mandate to suffer domestic abuse or violence in the name of submission. Again there is a tightrope as in this “go with your heart”, “do what makes you happy” generation, I am aware that there is a tendency to define things that are nowhere close to domestic violence/abuse as such, on the other hand however, human life and interaction is too complex for the term “domestic violence/abuse” which warrants not submitting to be defined. In all cases however, wisdom is profitable to direct.
(ii) Husbands are also instructed to love their wives. In fact this comes before the instruction to women in respect of submission. Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. An instruction which is no less “strenuous” than the woman’s instruction to submit.
2. THE HEAD OF WOMAN IS MAN
I know, I know, hold your horses! The previous heading issued a challenge asking for scriptures showing that a woman must submit to a man. The more knowledgeable skeptics must have been revving up their engines to quote me 1 Cor 11:3 which says,
“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
The problem is that in the original Greek (which the New Testament was written in), the word “Andros” is translated (among other masculine things),”man or husband”, while the word “Gune” is translated (among other feminine things), “woman or wife”. Further the second “man” in the above verse is “The man” in Greek. If you know anything about Greek, you would understand the definite article is not usually used with laxity as we do in English. So when Jesus says He is THE way, THE truth The life. those are weighty “The”s. Same as this situation also.
So, if you read that verse armed with this knowledge you would see that it begins the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is THE man. What man? Her husband, which the word “Andros” also translates to.
Furthermore, the episode closes this way,
“Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.”
No one sex can boast over another then since God has designed things in such a way both sexes need each other.
3. WOMEN MUST COVER THEIR HAIR IN CHURCH
This is actually the easiest one to respond to. It is covered in the same 1 Corinthians 11 cited above. How does Paul end the discourse?
“But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.” (v16)
Neither the church at Corinth nor the church at large had any such custom of women covering their hair. Paul was simply giving an opinion on church administration and conduct but was willing to concede it was not a church doctrine or custom if anybody was contentious about the practice he was suggesting.
4. WOMEN MUST KEEP QUIET IN CHURCH
“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34–35)
How come skeptics conveniently forget 1 Corinthians 11 at this point? The verse we just addressed on the hair covering issue. I reproduce for the sake of argument,
“ But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” (1 Cor 11:5)
The women Paul refers to were praying and prophesying in church. On a general note, do not forget that the scriptures say of Philip the evangelist,
“ Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:9)
If Christianity frowns at women talking in church, why does God allow female prophets? In fact the prophesy of Joel reads,
“‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17)
Further, there are two incidents recorded in scripture with regard to Jesus’ interaction with women in His own teaching ministry.
“And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27–28)
“ And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
“Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
This clearly shows that women spoke up during Jesus’ teaching sessions and at no point did Jesus shut them up. Who better to put a woman in her “quiet and submissive” state than the Lord Himself? Yet He did not. So clearly something is wrong with the “women being quiet in church” position.
Some scholars have posited that what Paul was against is that the women of the time were fond of talking loudly to their husbands and each other during church services. This is the context of Paul’s admonition on women keeping silent. I however do not think this is needed to debunk this position. We judge Christianity based on Christ and if Christ did not shut women up in His services, it is definitely not the Christian thing to do.
Paul, contrary to what some people think, was not infallible. This might be worth another article on its own. We must thus be very mindful of how we read his epistles. I understand this is a land mine as it begs the question, what do we adopt and what do we leave out, but that is not the point of this article. Bearing in mind that Paul was not infallible though (And I promise to write about that next) is crucial to the next heading.
5. WOMEN MUST NOT TEACH (MEN) IN CHURCH
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:14)
Again, we need to understand the context in all of this. Note here that Paul is writing, not a general epistle to a church or congregation, but a personal, intimate letter to “his own son in the faith” Timothy. He is thus imparting his own bit of pastoral wisdom and experience to his young mentee. He is simply telling Timothy how he, Paul, ran the churches he founded. The correctness or otherwise of that is another matter entirely. However to elevate this to a church doctrine is simply not correct because Paul himself acknowledged female teachers and preachers of the gospel.
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3)
“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7).
Junia was a female apostle who Paul apparently had a lot of respect for and acknowledged.
So again, we see it is not that there were no such things as female teachers of the gospel, it was that Paul did not out of personal preference allow women teach men.
The lives and legacies of great women on God like Kathryn Kuhlman, Annie Semple Mcpherson (founder of Four-square Gospel Church), Maria Woodworth Ether, to mention a few, remain testaments to the fact that men could and are chosen by God to teach and preach even to men.
In conclusion, Christ is the authority on the Christian world view and the epistles of the disciples must all be read in proper context of the message of Christ as a whole. Doctrine must be rightly divided from instruction, instruction from concession, concession from recommendation and recommendation from administration.