Here's to a good time, a good life, and a good death.
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” – Margaret Atwood
Normally, I like to end my posts with a quote rather than start with one. Today, I felt like I wanted to change the pace up a bit. The question is does the Bible support misogyny?
Misogyny is the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.
Now, as is discussed at length in the Achilles Heal of Christianity post, everything that the Bible states must be filtered through an interpretive lens of some sort in order to understand some meaning. In other words, there is always some degree of subjectivity regarding the Bible’s teachings. Hence, the reason that we have all of the different sects and overall individual diversity of Christianity.
In determining this argument, I am analyzing Biblical passages from the approach of a literal or fundamental interpretation. I also will account for context as well.
While the Old Testament is undeniably riddled with strong evidence of misogyny, the New Testament has carries themes that liberate women relative to the cultural context. In particular, Jesus treated women with a much more egalitarian approach than was custom at the time. He would treat them with dignity and respect even if they were prostitutes or did not have a husband, something that was very uncustomary to the times. The early Christian church followed Jesus’ examples, but still affirmed certain behavioral and functional roles of the family, specific to men and women. These church teachings seem to have taken some of their roots from the Old Testament.
Now, this idea of Biblical misogyny usually stems from a few people who like to pick out a few verses or look at general Biblical themes.
Some people like to interpret verses like 1 Timothy 2:11-14 as being misogynistic. This interpretation requires a more literal view as well as a general disregard for the context of the culture.
1 Timothy 2:11-14 New International Version (NIV)
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
Now, that is just one verse of the Bible to support this argument. Some others include Genesis 3:16.
Genesis 3:16 New International Version (NIV)
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
There are others like Corinthians 14:34, Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Timothy 2: 11-15, 1 Corinthians 11:2-10, 1 Peter 3:1, Titus 2:4-5, which generally have a theme of submission of women to men. These verses are generally included in passages regarding church conduct and family structure.
As far as Old Testament law, there is an especially long slew of verses like Exodus 20:17, Exodus 21:7, Deuteronomy 22:28-29, 1 Kings 11:3, Deuteronomy 22:20-21, Numbers 31:17-18, Leviticus 15: 19-31, Leviticus 12: 1-8, and Numbers 30:1-16. These verses usually highlight cultural customs regarding women such that menstruating women are spiritually unclean (Leviticus 15: 19-31), women, but only virgins, are to be taken as spoils of war (Numbers 31:17-18), a raped daughter can be sold to her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), and daughters can be bought and sold (Exodus 21:7).
Some others argue that misogyny is a trend that starts with the creation account, in that God created woman after He created man. Basically, since God created man first, man is inherently better and “the original thing”. Some would argue back that God’s creation forms a crescendo, building from the most basic of things to the most complicated of things. And, that since women are chronicled as being created last, they are the pinnacle of creation so to speak. However, the ones that advocate Biblical misogyny would point out that Eve sinned first, and, in doing so, is responsible for the Fall of Man and the entire problematic cause of sin. The ones fighting back would argue that Adam was physically beside Eve when she sinned, and is thus just as guilty for the act as she was.
In short, the fights go back and forth on Biblical trends regarding misogyny. It is very difficult to reach a conclusion this way.
Remember, as far as Old Testament law is concerned, fundamentalist Christians differentiate themselves from the Old Testament law in that Jesus recreated the New Covenant as defined by The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the New Testament works, particularly Paul’s letters. Thus, Christians place primary emphasis on the New Testament for literal application and they view the Old Testament as a “big picture” sort of lens to study “God’s Big Plan” for humanity. Therefore, the teachings of the Old Testament no longer directly apply to Christians, but demonstrate rather a big transitional time period.
However, all the New Testament passages dealing with female submission do still apply. In general, from looking at the verses cited above, we observe a broad theme of submission of women towards men. When contemporary Christians talk about “women and submission”, they generally discuss it as a differing of societal roles and family functions. Men fit a certain role and women fit another corresponding role.
It just so happens that many fundamentalists believe that God wants women to find glory in a “supportive” role towards men, rather than a primary role. In accordance with their roles, men are the more dominant species, while women are the more inferior species.
If interpreted in a fundamentalist sense, there is little question to be said that the Bible advocates the teachings of specified roles for men and women. Most fundamentalist Christians won’t disagree with these teachings either. Fundamentalists would argue back that both men and women vitally need each other. While this is a good point, it does not address the problem that women are specifically delineated as subordinate to men. By women being subordinate, there becomes an implication that women need men slightly more than men need women. In other words, men and women do not share equal dependency.
Now, it is important to note that the New Testament was written during a time period of very limited female rights and that, because of this, the writings may have some cultural influence in them (rather than spiritual influence). The conclusion would therefore be that these particular passages are not necessarily correct or right, especially in fundamental interpretation. However, fundamentalist Christians will not accept this point, because it goes against their tenants regarding the inherent holiness of the scriptures.
Now, Christians really dislike this argument that the Bible supports misogyny. In actuality, the Bible largely does support misogyny just on the passages of the Old Testament. So, the real contention is that the New Testament supports misogyny. Remember Christians adopt a highly spiritual/religious framework of seeing the world. They are able to justify the respective Biblical positions of men and women on the basis that both are fundamentally different in nature as God intended.
So, the question becomes, is it good to view women as submissive to men? For me, according to my moral framework, the question becomes how does this interpretation fit into the PSIC framework and is it compatible?
And there’s where you must answer the question for yourself.