There are critics who assert that the Christian church regards women as inferior. They contend that the Scriptures degrade women. Women are not allowed to teach, should obey their husbands and concern themselves with child rearing. This is a very contentious issue. The primary question to be answered is: did God create women inferior?
The answer is ‘No, He didn’t’. Genesis 1:26-27 teaches that both the man and woman were made in God’s image and commanded to rule over creation (Genesis 1:28). Before Eve was created out of Adam’s side, Genesis 2:18 states that the man was alone, and it was not good. The role of the woman was to be his helper. This term is very significant. The Holy Spirit, the power arm of the Trinity is described as the Paracletos, the One called alongside to help. He is fully God and not at all inferior to the Father and the Son. The word ‘helper’ is descriptive of God’s character, so in no way can women be regarded as inferior to men. According to Freedman, Genesis 2:20b should be translated: ‘I will make a power equal to man’ (1).
It is only after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, that they were cursed along with the earth. Part of the woman’s curse was that her desire would be for her husband and he would rule over her. Does that mean that God intended a restricted role for women in the home, church and society? No, but perversions do happen because of sin. After the fall, humanity was in the grip of sin, and wrong exegesis led to false impressions and teachings. Christ came to free everyone who accepts Him as Lord, from the curse of Eden. In Christ we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). ‘There is neither ... male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28). In the New Testament we see the proper emphasis on the role of women in the church in biblical times. For example,
- Phoebe - a deaconess, Priscilla - a fellow worker of Paul, Junias - an outstanding apostle (Romans 16:1,3,7)
- Euodia and Syntyche contended at Paul’s side for the gospel (Philipians 4:3).
- The Spirit was poured out on both men and women at Pentecost, and they proclaimed God’s word (Acts 2:14-18).
- Women prophesied and prayed (1 Corinthians 11:5).
- They were part of the church (1 Corinthians 11).
- When the church is discussed as a body with different functions, in no way are women excluded (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
- Philip had 4 daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8-9).
Why then are women told to remain silent, and not to teach in 1 Timothy 2:11-15? In this passage Paul is correcting the order of worship, since God is a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33a). There were abuses, and this text was written to correct this behavior. Paul is addressing a particular problem in Corinth and in Ephesus. There were false teachers (1 Timothy 1:3-4). They must have influenced some women (1 Timothy 5:13; 2 Timothy 3:6). Paul’s restrictive words should be understood in a context where false teaching was the issue. We understand that these were all ‘new’ churches, and Paul had to give guidelines to help guard against the devil’s attempts to infiltrate and disrupt the normal order.
Why then are women commanded to obey and submit to their husbands, even if they are regarded as the equals of their spouses (Ephesians 5:22)? The marriage relationship points to the church that will become the bride of Christ. The church shows her love for Jesus by obeying His commands (John 14:15; Ephesians 5:24). Similarly the wife shows her love for her husband by following his lead. There is order in God’s kingdom: just as Christ is submitted to God, the man is submitted to Christ, and the woman to her husband (1 Corinthians 11:3). This type of hierarchy is part of society. Their is a chief executive in a business, or a sports club. Without order and accountability, society would become chaotic.
God never intended the woman to be an inferior being. God says that He has no favorites (Romans 2:11). If women are inferior, then He does have favorites. God doesn’t lie, so He has no favorites, and we attribute the wrong teaching that women are inferior to the insidious influence of the devil who likes to sow discontent and arguing. We should be wary about his evil plans and be on our guard.
The church will become the bride of Christ. He gave His life to redeem and purify her, and it would never be in God’s plan to degrade women.
W Kaiser et al, Hard Sayings of the Bible, InterVarsity Press, 1996, p 92-94, 613-616.