Role Of Women In The Bible

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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I started out writing this paper kind of nonchalantly, going through and just answering the question as quickly and as easily as I could, but about half-way through the paper I started getting all worked up about Paul and his wishy-washy, contradicting views on women and their roles in the home and the Church, so I decided to start over.

I began to look up women and their roles in the Bible on-line and in the book, just to get a little background, and I was shocked to see the myriad of articles they had on Paul and the opposing views each different source took. His words have been twisted and mangled time and time again to get each individual author's view across, yet not one made the same point. Paul definitely should have been more clear about women and their role because he sure has caused some problems in modern day ministry.

It was the apostle Paul who declared for all the world to hear that the church is an equal opportunity institution: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:26-28). This is the same Paul; however, who in the very next breath is making women seem second and subservient to men in the home and in the Church. Even though he said that in Christ there is no male or female, he still described the criteria for church overseers in male terms (1 Tim. 3:1-7), reasoned for male headship, called for the submission of wives, and required that women wear head coverings while praying or prophesying in the church (Cor. 11:3-16). That doesn't sound equal to me. Paul, in no uncertain terms says "I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ ... he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. Indeed man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man" (1 Cor. 11:3,7-9). Why did Paul chose to use this version of how men and women were created and not the version where man and woman were created simultaneously, both in the "image of God" (Gen.1:27)? He then goes on to contradict himself again by reminding us that both men and women are now dependent on one another for their existence. "Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through a woman; but all things come from God" (Cor.11-12).

I then went further only to find out that Paul thinks that women have been "saved" from Eve's sin of "transgression" through childbearing. "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. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control" (1 Tim. 2:8-15). He also thinks women should be silent and submissive as we just saw in the passage from 1 Tim. Again in Corinthians he reiterates the importance of silent "subordinate" women. "Women should be silent in churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church" (1 Cor. 14:34-35).

Personally, I think that Paul was not speaking of women's spiritual standing compared to men but more from the social norms of his time. To say that man and women were equal in society might have been too much for recently converted Jews and Gentiles alike to take in when you consider how they were raised. Our book even goes on to say that the sexist parts in Pauls writing (Cor. 11:16, 14:34-35) could have been added by a later editor to agree with the non-Pauline instruction in 1 Tim. 2:8-15. I find this very plausible since Paul refers to women as his co-workers in Phil. 4:3. "Yes, I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life." Doesn"˜t this show that women's help was used and even welcomed in Paul's time? I think so.

Maybe it is just because I am a woman and I believe that God doesn't differentiate or distinguish between male or female, or maybe I believe the strongest argument Paul has to say doesn't even show up in Corinthians but in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus". This verse goes to the very heart of what Christianity is all about, so I chose to believe the Bible does not discriminate despite Paul's "rules and regulations" about the role of women in the church.