As mentioned in my first post on what the Bibles says about Women ,this is a response to the number of sites promoting the submissive wife and Titus 2 woman.Titus is a New testament letter and gives instructions on conduct appropriate to various groups.The relevant section states
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
I will choose here to be the older woman of Titus two and offer good counsel to younger women .There is an increasing number of sites promoting the erroneous doctrine of Women as inferiors to men or wives as servants to husbands .Young Christian women are encouraged to be “stay at home” women,both wives and mums and even daughters .While it is certainly ideal for young Children to have a “stay at home” parent ,I find it worrying that women are encouraged to be “stay at home ” daughters to the exclusion of acquiring an education and stay at home wives to the exclusion of any education or ambitions other than those focused on being the helpmate of a man .
I am in no way denigrating stay at home mums or wives at various times I have been both ,neither is my argument based on undermining the Bible or the Christian faith ,I hold a high conservative view of scripture and I am a Christian.(I have provided a fuller outline of my spiritual, personal and educational background in the previous post here)
I would now like to explore and consider the premises for believing the bible teaches the inferiority of women and condones or even encourages “stay at home women”I have started this series of posts by considering the account of creation and the fall ,as it is the foundation on which every other belief rests. I have also argued more or less entirely from within the text as it is the Bible which is used to justify these heresies.
Genesis and its accounts of the Creation ,Flood lays down fundamental concepts about ourselves and our world and about what is means to be a man and what it means to be a woman.Its also the foundation of the only God-given covenant between humans Marriage.Misreading and mistranslation have created an entirely false idea of the roles of women.
Below are listed some Commonly held views which are assumed to have irrefutable foundations in the Word of God ,most are out-and-out untrue some are only half-true
1/ The bible says women are inferior to men ,they mens helpers and God ordained different roles in life for men and woman
2/that Man as “the priest of the house” is effectively responsible for being almost an intermediary between his wife and God .
3/ The bible says women are inherently more likely to sin than men and were responsible for the “fall”
4/The bible says wives must be the submissive servants of their husbands
To begin with premise one
The bible says women are inherently inferior to men ,the weaker vessel.
It is fairly obvious without any reference to scripture that women are in general physically frailer than men ,we lack the same muscle strength ,we have finer more delicate bones and finer skin ,we are for the most part are less resilient to harsh environments or excessive hard labour .Being physically weaker however does not mean we are weak in every respect.Many male biblical characters are not physically remarkable and indeed several handsome or physically strong male figures are poor spiritual role models eg ,Absalom,Samson,
The bible therefore clearly does not teach that the body is in any way a mirror to the mind or soul nor is it of any eternal importance .Womens bodies are weaker but their intellect and women’s immortal souls are equal to mens because god created us that way and Genesis tells us so.
The Bible tells us man was most certainly created first and woman second.To use this to support an argument that Man is therefore a better, higher or prefered being to woman is erroneous . Before man was created God created the plants and animals,,does that therefore mean they are superior to Mankind ? Creation of living things in the Genesis account is shown as a progression from the simple plants to more complex animals then to man .Man is not greater than woman because he was created first ,if you carry any form of precedence by creation time argument forward it would maintain Woman not man was the peak of Gods creation .Which is obviously not an acceptable premise .What is clear is Woman is not an afterthought to stop Adam being lonely ,Woman completes Gods creation ,without woman the work of creation is incomplete and Adams life would be forever lonely.
Secondly the frequent argument of mans superiority because he is in effect Gods first-born .This is also flawed as throughout the bible the first-born are often superseded by later children,,Jacob was born second,,David was the youngest son.The term first-born cannot be used of the Adam /God relationship God did not give birth to Adam he created him.
Point one continued
Woman is created according to our English bibles to be mans ” help mate ” in his tasks ,however the word has lost some of its meaning over time ,,the original was help meet,, ie helper fit for man ,,and even in its original form the phrase loses a great deal in translation.
.The assorted english versions leads us to assume that woman being a helper for man is therefore inferior.This is not is a concept borne out by later biblical events in Genesis and teaching or by actual reading of the Hebrew phrase, Ezer cenegdo/kenegdo
The english translation of the phrase as Helper suggests a position of inferiority,taking commands and helping out ,however the actual Hebrew has a wider fuller meaning .
Ezer the first part of the phrase is exclusively used elsewhere in the Bible to refer to God or to a king or ruler or someone powerful providing indispensable help ,its always used to describe someone with power ,it ,means not a servant helper but someone who comes to your aid with their ,power or strength and or as a military allies.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
The base root of Ezer is Azar which means to succor ,to surround,to encourage .
Hence woman is mans helper in power and strength as well as emotionally and spiritually.If we seek her model in art or literature she isn’t the long-suffering,downtrodden and submissive yet ever faithful Griselda ,
she is more like the gentle but brave and powerful Arwyn or Eowyn .
There are Hebrew words which mean slave,servant or someone able but under authority but these are not used.
The second part of the phrase Cenegdo or kenegdo means facing ,like or corresponding to , or opposite to and implies being face to face ,equal but different.It can also mean an opposer but thats not its usual context.That this is how woman is seen is again obvious by close reading of the text .
Adam acknowledges Eves likeness to himself my calling Eve ,wo-man ,not because she is from him and therefore inferior to him but because unlike the animals etc she is like him ,flesh of his flesh bone of his bone ,,another being like himself.
Significantly and symbolically Eve is created from Adams side and from close to his heart.
Kenegdos other meaning as opposite also suggests that Eve is different to Adam which is clearly the case, the Bible ,experience and science all show us that men and women are not just the same creatures in different bodies and though they share a great deal and some so called masculine traits are equally common in women ,the sexes have clear differences in outlook and in their strengths and weaknesses.
God says I will create for Adam a partner, to be his aid ,Woman is not created as a meek helpmate but a powerful ,strong partner for Adam to add her strength to his and with him to rule the earth.
The Biblical texts examined more closely
Gen 2 v8
The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 Now a river [g]flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four [h]rivers. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it [i]flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it [j]flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is [k]Tigris; it [l]flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the [m]Euphrates.
15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not [n]eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [o]suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the [p]sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the [q]sky, and to every beast of the field, but for [r]Adam there was not found a helper [s]suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God [t]fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife
This is the most often quoted account of the creation of mankind and is of course the reason we know man was created first .However what is rarely asked is why did God create man first and allow man to look for companions elsewhere before he created woman?A close reading of the text shows this is not as it is usually suggested merely because man is thus shown to Gods first choice and worker alongside God in naming the animals .Nor is it that Man is Gods true image or even because it shows man can exist without woman while women are entirely dependent on men for their existence ,rather the opposite in this creation account Man cannot live without Woman ,she is essential to him because “it is not good that man should be alone”
This first longer version of mankind’s creation is also usually stressed to the exclusion of the much shorter earlier version
Gen 1 .27
So God created Man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” .
In this shorter creation account we see the introductory comments on the hebrew phrase translated helpmate as an equal partner are accurate .Man is often understood to be a plural term indicating Mankind is being referred to ,not a person who is male. But even assuming the original term Man to mean exactly that a man .The context clearly shows equality , he is not the only true image of God or woman an echo made only to be mans servant ,in this earlier verse we see Women and Man on equal spiritual footing both rulers of the earth. God blessed THEM ie both Adam and Eve and told Them ie ,Adam and Eve, man and woman that they should subdue and role over creation .Later verses support this readings I will use two NT texts one from Peter and one from Pauls teachings on men and women as Peter and Paul are the only real source for christian views of women as mens servants
Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way live with your wives with understanding, showing respect as to a weaker vessel, the female, as also to a fellow-heir of the grace of life, so your prayers may not be hindered.
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (NIV, Galatians 3:26-29)
(I will answer Peter and Pauls other teaching on Women in later posts)
Women responsible for the Fall
If it is accepted Women and Men were initially spiritual equals ,its claimed Women or at least Eve sinned first causing the Fall and the advent of sin and death.
It is seems certain that the first woman,Eve was the first human to disobey God ,the Bible tells us so and we see many echos of the Fall narrative in other cultures Myths such as that of Pandora and her box or Jar ( Pandora is the created first woman in Greek Mythology and by opening the box lets loose all the evils of the world ,the last thing to leave the box being hope,also an echo of Genesis where even the curse contains the seed of hope in the first prophecy of Jesus coming)
So far Genesis echos classical mythology, and had Adam not also disobeyed God Evas plight would be like Pandora, a source of all the worlds woes ,However Adam did sin.
Genesis three the Fall
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
The Story ends with Adam and Eves expulsion from Eden.
It is sometimes claimed Adam was always the intermediary between Eve and God ,,hence Man should remain so in the modern world (,this is however not borne out by a close reading of the Bible, true God and Adam are close and it is Adam not Eve who God calls for in the garden but nowhere does it say that God only spoke to Eve via Adam,God does in fact speak to her in a second creation account and in this account later during the curses ,you have to rely on the argument from silence to imply G0d didn’t speak to Eve)
But if we assume for the time being that Adam was Gods intermediary with Eve ,if that was the case Eves sin was to disobey Adam her husband thus causing all the woes of the world.However what is ignored in this scenario is that if this is indeed the case Eves sin is surely more understandable than Adams.Eve disobeyed her fellow-creature who she spent her time helping .In addition she did this because a spiritual being, the serpent told her something different.
Adam on the other hand disobeyed God ,a God who he had been close to and who he knew from personal experience was the creator of all the living things and who had given him everything he had .
At this point its is proper to highlight that any disobedience is Sin and all sin is equal Eves is not a lesser sinner for just disobeying Adam , but likewise Eve is no greater sinner for sinning first ,her sin is no greater than Adams.Likewise the actual act of committing the first sin is committed by both Eve and Adam individually and independently and both must equally take the responsibility for their sin and its consequences.
If we now read the account more closely we see that though the text is unclear , its likely only Eve held a conversation with the serpent but that Adam was present .It is however utterly illogical to argue that this is a prelude to sin. Eve was not told not to talk to the serpent just not to eat from the tree .Its also suggested Eve should not have had the conversation where she explains the prohibition to the serpent as that implies Eves willingness to be tempted but ignores the obvious alternative that Eve was explaining to the serpent that it had the wrong impression of Gods commands.It is also worth considering that the text says Eve gave some to Adam who was with her,so why was Adam letting Eve talk to the serpent if it had be forbidden and why was he near the tree did he also intend to sin ?Is it in fact possible to intend to do something you have no concept or knowledge of ?
.While it is occasionally suggested both Adam and Eve were involved in the serpents conversation this seems unlikely ,The serpent is cursed for deceiving Eve not both Adam and Eve .It can be argued that Eve is seen as an easy target by the serpent or that she intends to sin because she goes close to the tree but that isn’t explicitly stated and can’t be supported by the Genesis narrative .God doesn’t say ,don’t go near the tree ,don’t talk to the serpent so there can be no implied disobedience from Eves actions.
What is important is that Eve does not sin then wander to another part of Eden to tempt Adam , Adam is present at the point at which Eve eats ,he sees her eat then eats himself ,she doesn’t tempt Adam she is just the one who passes the fruit to Adam and who eats .Adam doesn’t say Eve told me to eat it ,Eve persuaded me or Eve deceived me just that she gave it to him the fruit .God doesn’t curse Eve for deceiving Adam in the way he curses the serpent for deceiving Eve ,nor does he curse Eve as a temptress ,he curses her for her disobedience in eating the fruit
The consequences of Adams sin is also much more wide-ranging than Eves ,Eves sin merely effects women
Gen 3 cont
I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
rIn pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall trule over you.”
whereas Adams affects all creation and the lot of humankind.
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
aFor dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”
Lastly here is the earliest source of the belief that God ordained women should be submissive in all respects to their husbands ,its is the phrase that Eves husband will “Rule over her, yet the context here is always forgotten ,,it’s a curse .God is not giving out instructions for a godly marriage but rather explaining the sad results of sin.Likewise it would be impossible for the ruling over of Eve to have been an original part of the Adam /Eve ,husband wife ideal relationship , then be included in a curse for sin .The relationship of the unregenerate Husband wife may still be included in this curse but there is certainly no scope for a Christian husband and wife to use this text for marriage guidance.
It should also be noticed that the trend to “pass the buck to women for mans sin first appears here but Adams defence by blaming Eve is not condoned by God and he shows clearly that every being is accountable for their sins and can’t use excuses to pass the blame to anyone or anything else.Blaming Eve for initiating the Fall and using it to denigrate women is not acceptable to God.
Men and women are equal but different .
I have here listed several texts using Ezer Kenegd
Exodus 18:4, And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh. –
Deuteronomy 33:26, There is none like unto God of Jeshurun, who rides upon the heaven in thy help, and his excellency on the sky.
Deuteronomy 33:29, Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!..
5) Psalm 20:1-2, The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion.
6) Psalm 33:20, Our soul waiteth for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.
7) Psalm 70:5, But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.
8) Psalm 89:19, Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
9) Psalm 115:9, O Israel, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.
10) Psalm 115:10, O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.
11) Psalm 115:11, Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.
12) Psalm 121:1, I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
13) Psalm 121:2, My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
14) Psalm 124:8, Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
15) Psalm 146:5, Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help
If we apply Ezer to imply a position of submission and servant like service these texts become nonsense.
Exodus 18:4, And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine servant and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh. –
Deuteronomy 33:26, There is none like unto God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy service and his excellency on the sky.
Psalm 121:2, My service cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
Lord, the voice of Judah be thou a servant to him from his enemies.
Psalm 115:11, Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their servant .
Psalm 146:5, Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his servant.
I thought it would be enlightening to substitute the word woman for helper in one of the texts.
Psalm 146 ,v 5 Happy is the man who has woman for his helper
,,, Woman is considered in much this way in Proverbs
Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
Proverbs 19:14 House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD.
(The proverb backs up and builds on the narrative of Genesis were Adam is given Eve.)
Proverbs 31:11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil
christians are therefore equals but different ,they compliment each other and by being partners help make up for each others weaknesses.