Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What Does the New Testament Say About Women?

Check out today's episode

I have recently finished reading the New Testament and I am collecting my thoughts about what I read in this series of posts. Today I am writing about what the New Testament says about women. Other entries in this series:
  1. Slavery
  2. The Apocalypse
We might as well start this off with 1 Timothy 2:12, which says in no uncertain terms that women are not allowed to hold authority over a man, ever. The only way a woman is allowed to hold any position of authority is if there are only women subordinate to her. It seems reasonable to assume that 'man' doesn't include male children, so I suppose women could be teachers, but they probably need to be careful of teaching high school aged boys, who knows where the cutoff between man and boy is exactly. 1 Timothy 2:12 goes further to say women should "remain quiet" and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 builds on this saying it is shameful for women to speak in church. If there is anything they want to learn they can ask their husbands when they get home.
Pic found on freethinker.co.uk
Titus 2:3-5 specifically addresses older women and tells them that if they are not irreverant, slanderers, or drunks they should teach the younger women. What should they teach them? Obviously to "love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands". Telling women to love their children seems unnecessary, but in this society I suppose they might need to tell women to love their husbands. The rest of it seems like a stereotypical picture of a "good wife", now why is it that the women should act this way? According to this verse, it is to reflect well on the religion. It's not for the woman's benefit, it's not even for the husbands, although he certainly benefits here, the motivation is to benefit the church.

But it's not just the passage from Titus which tells women to be submissive to their husbands, 1 Peter 3:1,51 Corinthians 11:3Colossians 3:18, and Ephesians 5:22-23 all give this same message, that women should be submissive to their husbands. But it is not just that, women are clearly portrayed as second class citizens in other ways. 1 Timothy 5:13 says that young women are gossips and busybodies, so they need to be married and have children to stop this behavior. 2 Timothy 3:6 says that women are weak, burdened with sin, and led astray by passions. Finally, in Revelation 20:2 a bride is portrayed as a gift from her father to her new husband, clearly the woman is being portrayed as a commodity.

But it's not all bad for women, in exchange for all of that Ephesians 5:25 instructs husbands to love their wives. Well that pretty much balances things.


  1. I've known a couple Christian women who fancy themselves soft-core feminists. I may direct them here from now on.

    1. I hope it would drive them away from their bibles rather than their feminism.

  2. It's ironic that quite often women are the more faithful members of the family. I think that has to do with identification with a role. Some women willingly take up this submissive role because they feel that God has given them that role to play; that is their purpose. As long as their husbands aren't jerks and they can can quell their own egos, I guess it works out OK. But I far prefer an egalitarian perspective.

    Regarding Ephesians 5:25, and many other verses of that type, I was thinking recently that most theologians would to well to have what I call a "one verse test": remove the one verse that best supports your position, and then see if there are enough other verses to make a case for your position. If you take out Ephesians 5:25, could you still make a case for husbands to love their wives in the Bible? Not much of one... Which is pretty sad in a volume of "divine" instruction that large.

  3. "Some women willingly take up this submissive role because they feel that God has given them that role to play; that is their purpose."

    That's a really good point, not knowing where you belong can be really difficult. It can be scary. It's easier to take a well defined and shitty role than to be in an uncertain position.

    That "one verse test" is awesome. If there is only a single isolated verse that supports your position, perhaps your position is weak and should be reevaluated. Unfortunately, as you point out it cuts both ways.

  4. However, there is quite a few verses telling husbands to treat their wives with respect.

    1. Very well, treat women with respect, and as I pointed out, love them. Just don't let them talk in church


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