|Women are Not the Glory of God
Joseph Francis Alward
See also, "Usurping Women."
Note: I am 100% in favor of women having all the rights that men have, and in particular I believe women should be allowed to occupy any church position they're qualified for, including being a priest, minister, pastor, reverend, deacon, bishop, cardinal, or pope. The arguments presented below are those I believe HAVE to be advanced based on the teachings in the Bible--teachings I completely reject, in part because I don't believe any part of the Bible is inspired by any god. I further believe that the Bible is packed with an uncountable number of contradictions, inconsistencies, absurdities, and racist and bigoted teachings, but nevertheless believe that there is no teaching in the Bible that is clearer than the one that holds that women are inferior to men, and than women should never be allowed to teach or lead men. If you believe the Bible, you have to believe that women are inferior to men.
|No teaching in the Bible is clearer and more consistent from New to Old Testament than the one that teaches that women are inferior to men. The Bible teaches that the woman was created from man for man, and that man is the glory of God, but woman is not. Furthermore, one of the Bible's authors forbade the teaching of men by women because women couldn't be trusted to give proper guidance. The Woman in the Garden, after all, was the one who led mankind into sin:
"But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it...And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die...And when the woman...took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat...And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat....Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow... [and your husband] shall rule over thee....And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife..." (Genesis 3:2-17)
Because the very first man listened to his wife, man's life would forevermore be miserable. Never listen to the women, the inspired Genesis writer is almost shouting.
|Because of his familiarity with this famous passage, at least one later Bible writer would declare that he would never abide women leading men (1 Timothy 2:11-12), because just look at what happened the very first time man let that happen. The price woman would pay for her foolishness in the Garden was that man would "rule over" her. This teaching, echoed a thousand years later, is one of the clearest teachings in the Bible.
"But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." (1 Timothy 2:11-12) This passage, canonized in the 4th Century along with the rest of the New Testament, is used to prove that God didn't approve of women being ministers in church, that He didn't approve of women teaching men.
The Bible also teaches that women are not as righteous as men; are not clever enough to enter into contracts; are to keep silent and seek answers in private from their husbands, and are to treat their husbands as if they were God.
Woman is Made from Man, for Man
"The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.... And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him."
"And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
"And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." (Genesis 2:7-23)
Man Came from God's Own Breath, Women from Man's Rib
God created man first, and gave man life by breathing God's own breath into man's nostrils. Woman's life was not initiated from something from God, as was man's. Her life began not with God, as was man's, but with man--his rib. Why did God not breath life into her, too, so that the both lives could have begun with God's breath? The answer would seem to be that man was more important to God than woman. Man's life began with something that was part of God--God's breath, but woman's life sprung from something that was part of the man. The order of importance is God, then man, then woman.
God Made the Woman Defer to the Man
God brought the woman to the man in the exact same manner as he brought the animals to man (Genesis 2:7-23); man wasn't taken to the animals; neither was man taken to woman; it was the other way around: the animals and the women were brought to Adam Clearly, God regarded woman as subservient to man as were the animals, otherwise the Bible writer would have described bringing the two persons together; that's not what he said, though; the woman was taken to the man, in the manner of introducing an inferior to its superior...the slave to its master...the subject to its king.
Those who believe that the Bible does not teach that man is superior to women say that God paraded the woman before Adam just as he'd paraded the animals before him to highlight woman, to make the contrast between the animals all the more stark to Adam. In other words, "Just stay right where you are, Adam; you haven't seen anything yet." This explanation seems too imaginative for most Christians, who don't believe God is a kind of ringmaster who has to worry about pleasing the crowd, nor is he like a used-car salesman who first shows the customers the cars with all the dings before he shows them the one he really wants them to buy. What is far more plausible is the explanation just provided:
God's writers were communicating to the reader that the woman was taken to the man just as were the animals because she, like the animals, is inferior to the man and subservient to man.
This message wasn't lost on a later Bible writer who, hundreds of years after the creation stories were written, said that his readers were to remember that woman was made for man, not the other way around (1 Corinthians 11:2-9), and that woman must never teach men because it was the woman who was tricked by the serpent (1 Timothy 2:11-12) and then, in an attempt to lead man--to teach him--led him to a state of sin. Never again must a woman be allowed to teach a man; this is what this Bible writer was teaching.
|Note: Many Bible scholars believe that the Timothy verses cited in the paragraph above were "forged," that is, decades later someone added to the writings of an earlier author (see, for example, "Pastoral Forgeries"), but this doesn't mean the teachings are any less doctrinally valid than the earlier teachings, any less God-inspired. If the later additions teach that women are inferior, and these additions don't contradict earlier teachings, then why shouldn't they be held in as much esteem as the earlier verses?
Adam Named the Woman
God brought animals to man to see what he would call them, and Adam chose their names (Genesis 2:7-23). In the same manner, God also brought woman to man, and man said she should be "called" woman. Thus, Adam was naming her, as is the prerogative of he who is superior.
Thus, Adam is given by God the privilege of providing the descriptive name of this being in just the same way God reserved for himself the right to provide the descriptive name of the dry land, as is the prerogative of the one who is superior. Just as God rules over the thing he chooses to call "Earth," Adam rules over the being he chooses to call "woman". This being wasn't allowed to name herself; God chose not to give the name; he let Adam do it in order that it be clear who was to rule over whom.
Folio from Papyrus 46, an early 3rd century collection of Pauline epistles, containing
2 Corinthians 11:33-12:9
In summary, Adam was named "Man" by God, who ruled over Man, and Woman was named by Man, who ruled over Woman. This hierarchy is echoed millennia later when a writer said, "But I would have you know, that the head [Greek, "kephale"] of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.....For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." (1 Corinthians 11:2-9)
Man is the Head of the Woman
What wonderful symmetry the message in 1 Corinthians 11:2-9 represents; the message of inequality remains intact for thousands of years, from God in Genesis who tells us that woman was made for man, not vice-versa, that the woman would be ruled by the man, to the writer of the passage in 1 Corinthians, who repeats the message: man is the head of the woman, and man is between God and woman. One couldn't ask for anything clearer than this; if there's anything certain in the Bible, it's this: Woman is not the equal of man, and she's to remain in a subservient position, in part because of her role in causing the fall of man.
|God wanted his Bible writers to echo in their writings this message from the Garden, and they did not disappoint him. Unfortunately, those who reject the notion that the Bible teaches that women are inferior to men point to the alleged "forgery" that they believe occurs in 1 Corinthian, and assert that the actual author of that verse is not Paul of Tarsus, but some other author, and therefore the teachings of this later author are false, and claim that it is therefore not true that the Bible teaches that women are never to lead men. But, this ignores the plain teaching in Genesis 3:2-17, and well as the fact that whoever the author of 1 Corinthians was, his writings and teachings are no less valid that those of any other author whose words were canonized.
Whether Head or Source, Kephale Still Means "Superior"
Some prefer to believe that when the Bible author says that Christ is the "head" [kephale] of every man, and man is the "head" [kephale]" of the woman, he doesn't really mean that man is the boss of women, but is instead the "source" of women, in the sense that the "source" of Eve was Adam's rib. But, no matter whether the writer meant for us to think of man as the head of woman, or the source of her spiritual growth, the result is the same: Woman is dependent on man. We take a close look below at all of the instances of the use of the word kephale.
Paul of Tarsus
Woman Was a Better Helper to Man Than the Animals
We also need to note that the animals were described as potential helpers for man, not equals, but Adam found not one of them to be satisfactory. Then God makes the woman, and the clear message is that this creation would be a satisfactory helper for man; thus, woman is a "helper"--an assistant human, so to speak, not an equal.
Note that in constructing a helper for man, God doesn't take part of any of Adam's life-providing essential organs--such as heart, or lungs--to build Eve; he takes only a simple rib--a bone. The symbolism here is clear: woman is not as valuable as man. Next, the woman is delivered or paraded in front of Adam just as the animals were, and Adam gave her a name. The obvious message from the writer of this story is that woman is inferior to man.
Bruce Waltke, in his article, The Role of Women in Worship in the Old Testament, notes,
"If God had intended democracy he could just as easily have formed Eve and Adam at the same time and have said, "it is not good for the man or woman to be alone, I will make them to be helpers suitable to each other." If he wanted a matriarchy, he would have formed Eve first and created the husband to be a suitable helper to his wife. However, he created a patriarchy in which the husband has authority."
Thus, if equality were the message, one would expect some kind of reciprocal statement by God about Man being the suitable helper for Woman, something like, "man is the helpmeet of the woman." God is all-knowing, so he would have known that we would argue about this, so if he had wanted his writers to communicate to us that woman was the equal to man, reasonable persons would conclude that he would have made sure to tell his writers to write the reciprocating, parallel statement. God didn't do that, and the straight-forward, most reasonable conclusion--when the rest of the evidence is counted--is that the Bible writers wanted us to know that woman was the servant of man.
The Word "Helpmeet" Doesn't Mean Eve Has Divine-Like Helping Skills
Some scholars insist that the Bible writer wanted us to know that woman was equal to man because the word the writers use for "help" (Hebrew: ezer) is used in several places to describe the type of divine guidance God provides. They claim that woman was an ezer to man in the same way that God was. However, this is just an unmet hope: the word "ezer" (Strong's Number 5828) doesn't always mean help in a near-divine like sense; it has a quite ordinary meaning in the following verses:
"Everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help [ezer] nor advantage, but only shame and disgrace." (Isaiah 30:5)
"Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help [ezer]: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries." (Daniel 11:34 )
"And I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help [ezer] him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the sword after them." (Ezekiel 12:14 )
Woman was Not the Crowning Creation of God
Other hopeful Christians have argued that woman being created last (in the second creation story) makes her God's crowning creation, but that doesn't work, because if the order of creation mattered, the second creation story would tell us that animals were a more important creation than man, since they were created after man.
Man is Like a God to Woman
"Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.....For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." (1 Corinthians 11:2-9)
The author of 1 Corinthians 11:2-9 says "the head of the woman is the man," meaning that the women are to be subordinate to men. He orders wives to submit themselves to their husbands "in every thing" as though they were gods. Once again, we see that women are expected to defer to men. To make perfectly sure that we would know that he's describing a hierarchy, the author tells us (above) not to forget that the woman was made for the man, not vice-versa. The woman is told to submit to her husband in the same way she does to the Lord. There's no reciprocal statement about man submitting to his wife as he does to the Lord. Why not? The answer, given all of the evidence already presented, is obvious: Man is superior to the woman; husband and the Lord are each to be revered by the woman. No message in the Bible is clearer than this one.
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 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." (Ephesians 5:22-24)
In other words, woman, you must be as submissive to your husband just as you are to the Lord. Note that there is no talk of the husband being submissive to his wife, or any hint that the woman is on the same level as the man. Irrespective of whether Paul of Tarsus is the author of Ephesians 5:22-24, or some later other author penned those words, the passage is part of canon, and is to be respected no less than any of the teachings by other writers, including Paul.
Woman Isn't the Glory of God--Man Is
"For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man." (1 Corinthians 11:2-9)
The author of the above verse states that man is the glory of God, but pointedly fails to say that woman is the glory of God also. Why not? If the writer wanted readers to know that equality and reciprocity existed between man and woman, he surely was smart enough to know he should provide a reciprocating statement such as, "SHE is the image and glory of god, too," but nowhere is such a statement to be found. Why not? Because no Bible writer--and that includes the author of this verse--thought women were the glory of God.
Is it any wonder that many people believe the Bible teaches that the woman must defer to the man, that she is not the equal of man as far as God is concerned? If God wanted the Bible readers to know that woman is honored by God as much as man is, he would have made sure Bible writers said so, and gave examples of this, before the Bible's books were canonized. The many examples in the Bible which show the writers believed woman was inferior confirm emphatically that the message in Genesis from God about the failure of Woman was heard loud and clear by all of the church fathers.
Women are to Keep Silent and Learn from Men
Women are commanded in the passage below to be silent in church and to be obedient to men, and if they want to learn anything, they're to ask their husbands; after all, the writer implies, the woman made the really big mistake--not man...she was the one who was deceived, not Adam. One thing's for certain, says that author: the woman who tried to control Adam--to lead him--is responsible for the state of sin we're all living in; she tried to assume the leadership role then, when she had him eat from the tree of knowledge, and just look at the trouble we're in now. The author--presumably inspired by God--absolutely forbids women to ever lead man again; women must not be allowed to teach man.
Blaming women for the fall of man, and assuming that women are not bright enough to make informed decisions, is just what one would expect from men--and gods--who believe that women are inferior to men; it's also what one would expect from anyone who accepts the teachings in Genesis, where we find God's writers telling us that the woman was created from man to be just a helper to man.
"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. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)...Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." (1 Timothy 2:11-12)
Women are Tattlers and Busybodies
If a widow has no one to take care of her and is under the age of 60 years, the people shall not take care of her because it's to be expected that she will marry again. Furthermore, such women can be expected to be busybodies and gossipers, because (or so the Bible writers apparently believed), that's just the way young widows are. This stereotyping women negatively. Is this the attitude of a man who believes that women are his equal?
"Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate....Let [her not] be taken [care of] under threescore years old..... [these] younger widows... will marry...And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not." (1 Timothy 5:5-13)
Moses and the Virgin Girls
Moses, as described in the Old Testament, was a Hebrew prophet and lawgiver who led the Israelites out of Egypt. Not so well known, however, is the fact that after his army conquered its enemy, Moses ordered the captive male "little ones" killed, as well as all of the women who weren't virgin; the virgin "women children" were to be kept by his men as a prize of war.
"And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males....And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire. And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts. And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho....And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?...Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." (Numbers 31:7-18)
If Moses was indeed a "servant of god", as the Bible says, then this story shows that God's servant approved of collecting virgin girls as spoils of war for use by his soldiers; this is not the attitude of one who respects womanhood, or of a god who values women as much as men.
Some Christians assert that just because the Bible doesn't record that God disapproved of the taking of the Midianite virgins doesn't mean that God approved of it.what Moses did, but they forget the number of times God elsewhere expressed disapproval for someone's actions. If ever there were a time for God to express disapproval, this time would surely be it.
The god described in the Bible is all-knowing, so he surely knew that later readers of the Bible would wonder why he didn't punish Moses for instructing his soldiers to kill the non-virgins, and save the young virgin women for themselves. Thus, if God wanted us to know that he didn't approve of what Moses did, he would have inspired his Bible writers to make that clear; they didn't do that, so the message is clear: Either God approved of what Moses did, or else the writer of this passage wasn't inspired by God at all.
Beautiful Women are War Booty
"When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go." (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)
Moses, the presumed author of the Torah, tells us that when the Lord allows his men to be victorious in war, they are permitted to take any of the beautiful women they desire and to "go in unto" them and take them as their wives, evidently whether the women are consenting or not, or to abandon them if they eventually did not "delight" the man.
Moses doesn't say in this particular passage what's to be done with the women who aren't found to be "beautiful", but it was made clear above (Numbers 31:7-18) that it's permissible to kill the ones who weren't virgin. If the passage below are truly the words of a man inspired by God to write these words, a man who the Bible says is a "servant of god", then it's clear that God viewed women as not much better than objects. There are other places in the Old Testament where the writers make it clear that God didn't approve of the actions of certain people, so if the omnipotent God didn't approve of what Moses did, surely he would have known that we would wonder why he didn't tell his Bible writer to tell us that he disapproved; the Bible writer doesn't say this, so the conclusion we must reach is that God approved of Moses' actions.
Woman Needs Husband's Permission for Contracts
In the passage below we see that the Old Testament writer--some believe it was Moses--makes it clear that agreements entered into by the wife can be cancelled if the husband disapproves; once again, we see that Moses, a "servant of god" (Revelation 15:3), places women in a subservient position, presumably with God's permission. Once again, man is the master of the women; the woman has little control over her life.
"If a woman living with her husband makes a vow or obligates herself by a pledge under oath and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her and does not forbid her, then all her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the LORD will release her." (Numbers 30:10-12)
A Way Out?
Scholars who argue that women should be allowed to be ministers in the church sometimes offer the following as evidence that the Bible doesn't teach that women are inferior to men:
All Are One in Christ Jesus
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)
Whatever "one in Christ Jesus" means, it apparently doesn't mean that woman is not inferior to man. If one believes that's what it means, then one would also have to believe that the "slave" in that verse is not inferior to his master. However, that interpretation would seem to be quite false, for the Bible in many places teaches that the slave is indeed inferior to his master. Here is the evidence:
"Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly." (Leviticus 25:44-46 NIV)
"If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property" (Exodus 21:20-21 NIV):
The Bible teaches that the Hebrew may take slaves that become their property for life, and passed on to their heirs. Furthermore, they could beat their slaves without punishment as long their injuries are not so great that the slaves cannot get up after a day or two. There should be no question that these verses clearly show that the slave is inferior to his master.
Whatever the writer of the Galatians verse meant with "one in Christ Jesus," he couldn't possibly have meant that the slave was not inferior to his master. The slave and the master evidently are "one in Christ Jesus," whatever that means, but it obviously cannot mean that the slave is not inferior to the master. Now, if the slave in the Galatians verse is obviously the inferior to his master, how could one insist that none of the people listed can be the inferior of another one?
What does "one in Christ Jesus" mean? It means that all persons are saved in the same way, through Jesus Christ. There is no evidence that it means that women are equal to men.
Time and Location
Still other scholars argue that God's teaching, as found in the writings of the ancient writers, cannot be judged by the standards of the modern era. God meant for his rules regarding the treatment of slaves, women, and homosexuals to apply to the time and place of ancient Israel, they say. He never intended for those rules to apply two or three thousand years in the future. Perhaps it was vitally important for the survival of societies in that time and that location for homosexuality to be forbidden, for reasons we perhaps could never understand. Just because God hated homosexuals three thousand years ago, doesn't mean he hates them today, they say. The same argument is applied to women being treated as inferior to men in the old days; God might have had a perfectly good reason then for approving of this.
How do these scholars know this? Why do they think the rules laid down by the God of the Old Testament have changed, or only applied to that time and that place? How do they decide which of God's rules still apply today, and which do not?
A closely related article dealing with women in the ministry is Usurping Women.
Attempts to change the Bible to make it gender-neutral are discussed in the article,
"Do Inclusive-Language Bibles Distort Scripture?"
 Mary J. Evans, Woman in the Bible, IVP, 1983, p.16.
 Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, and 1 Peter 2:7.
 Ephesians 4:15, Colossians 1:18, 2:10, and 2:19.
 Readers will recall that "knowing" a person is sometimes a euphemism for having sexual intercourse; for example, when the angel tells the virgin Mary she will be with child, Mary tells the angel, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"-- (Luke 1:34)