The following is an excerpt from the chapter “The Bible’s Value of Women” in my book, Gentle:
The book entitled, Eve’s Bible: A Woman’s Guide to the Old Testament opens with the sentence,
The Bible is a dangerous book. Written by men for men, it has been used for thousands of years to keep women in their place.[i]
The dangerous Bible. An oppressive patriarchal scheme of defunct power-greedy men designed to oppress, limit, and keep women “in their place”. Eve’s Bible is overtly anti-Christian and the fact that this PhD author uses such sources as The Feminist’s Companion to the Bible and Ten Things Every Feminist Should Know About the Song of Songs and tries to direct the reader back towards goddess worship gives this away as a heavily biased and un-academic work not worth the paper it’s printed on. PhD papers and books that are never cited are considered failures. Noone in the academic world is citing this. PhDs are supposed to represent the top of the intellectual scale and give the world new knowledge. They have an authority all their own. Suffice it to say the book was no more a success than Stanton’s Woman’s Bible. There are however two important ironies to consider in light of this book.
Firstly, the author is basically correct in this opening sentence. The Bible is dangerous, yes. It will lead you to be crucified with Christ. Adhering to it will get you hated and scorned by the world around you. By men for men, yes. Men penned the Bible and as such its voice heavily caters and speaks to men. Men connect with the Word of God in a way which women cannot, much in the same way men connect with each other when they are by themselves. Much of the expectation was that fathers would pass on the knowledge to their families (obviously a complicated problem in a family-less society).[ii]
Secondly, and perhaps the most startling, is how similar in spirit it is to books circulating within existing egalitarian churches. In Good News For Women, we read the following statement,
We should note that the ancient Hebrew language was an expression of the patriarchal culture.[iii]
Translation? The Hebrew language itself is oppressive. Thus the Hebrew word adam meaning ‘mankind’ is an oppressive word. Yikes. She continues,
We cannot conclude, simply because the Bible was written under divine inspiration, that the languages in which the Bible was written were themselves created under divine inspiration. These languages were as male centered as the cultures they reflected and by which they were created.
So God used an oppressive language to inspire the world? Sounds like Eve’s Bible has creeped into the Church after all.
We hear it all the time, “Men have used the Bible to keep women in their place.”
We know the Bible has been used, no doubt about that. It’s been used for everything from a means to get Jesus to kill himself (Luke 4:9-11) to rolling paper for tobacco. The Bible does, in fact, keep women in their place. It even keeps men in their place. But what is that place? First let’s look at the place of women in other religious texts for comparison.
Jesus and Women
Immediately we find a startling and serious contrast in just the fact that there are a host of stories about Jesus interacting with various women. Where there are virtually zero of similar value in the Qu’ran, Vedas, Analects, Sutras, or the Tao Te Ching. Already 3 billion people on the planet who hold these texts as their most holy books are without enriching lessons for women. That means 1.5 billion women in the world are either without explicit teaching of who they are to their most holy leaders or they are relegated to the status of ‘property’ and nothing more.
Jesus’ stories, in contrast, give clear and explicit examples of how women are to be treated, valued, and loved by the creator of the universe himself. This alone serves as perhaps one of the most fantastic testimonies of the attitude, humility, and even boldness of the men who penned the Gospels and the New Testament and included such stories even though they didn’t have to. Christians could very easily have been left without the examples of Jesus interacting with a prostitute, an adulteress about to be stoned, the two sisters, his own mother, or a woman who had been married five times. Many stories and teachings of Jesus were in fact left out for they couldn’t possibly include them all. As John wrote, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Instead these men consciously made an effort to include these stories. All four of them, John, Mark, Luke, and Matthew.
At the heart of all these interactions one gets a first-hand look into how Jesus viewed all women, pardoned by his forgiveness, as one. No partiality is seen expressed on his part whether the woman was a prostitute or his own mother. He valued them the same. I do not mean that Jesus treated them all as “equals”. That would be demeaning to his own mother would it not? Jesus still treated his mother as his mother, keeping with the law, “honor thy mother and father”. Though he forgave her, he did not give honor to the prostitute whom he commanded to “go and sin no more.” The blood of Jesus freely given to all to wash the our sins away is not apportioned based on the kind of human one is, more to the one and less to the other. His blood is sufficiently poured out to cover every last repentant individual head to toe thus bringing every last individual to a true tabula rasa, a clean slate. With a clean slate, each individual begins his or her own path.
The New Testament did not flip the roles of men and women. Jesus did not eliminate the roles. Choosing twelve men to be his disciples and four men to write the Gospels is more than enough evidence to show that. Instead the Gospel shows us men valuing women higher than they ever had been before. The next time someone questions the value of women in the New Testament, show them this verse:
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife. (1 Corinthians 7:14)
If you caught that you would have realized that the Christian woman makes the unbelieving man holy. Christian women are in fact immeasurably higher than all unsaved men on the planet. Show me a teaching like that in any other religion! Men and women do not follow the same paths just as individuals do not follow the same path. Everyone has a unique, personalized journey laid out for them by the Father. The Scriptures provide the guiding light along the way both with admonitions and encouragements that reach to the depths of our very personhood and with instructions and exhortations that speak directly to our manhood or womanhood. Jesus’ honor comes to us only at the end when he weighs our deeds and obedience to his commands and rewards us accordingly saying, “well done good and faithful servant.”[iv]
[i] Forth, Sarah S. Eve’s Bible: A Woman’s Guide to the Old Testament. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009.
[ii] Cf. Eph. 6:4, Ps. 78:2-4
[iii] As quoted in Grudem, W. Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2004. p.110.
[iv] Matt. 25:23