Women in the Bible

Women in the Bible
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Part of a series on
and Gender

Female disciples of Jesus
Gender roles in Christianity
Jesus' interactions with women
List of women in the Bible
Paul of Tarsus and women
Women as theological figures
Women in the Bible

4 major positions

Christian Egalitarianism
Christian feminism
Biblical patriarchy

Church and society

Christianity and homosexuality
Ordination of women
Women in Church history


Christians for Biblical Equality
Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus

Theologians and authors
Letha Dawson Scanzoni · Anne Eggebroten · Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
William J. Webb · Kenneth E. Hagin · Gordon Fee · Frank Stagg · Paul Jewett · Stanley Grenz · Roger Nicole
Don Carson · John Frame · Wayne Grudem · Douglas Moo · Paige Patterson · Vern Poythress
Doug Phillips · R. C. Sproul, Jr. · Douglas Wilson
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The role examples of 188 named[1] Women in the Bible, and a host of others left unnamed, identify prominent queens, prophetesses, judges, and military leaders. Most Biblical stories are about men. The roles of women were severely restricted and treated as inferior to men during Biblical times[2]. Women's roles in the history of Judaism and Christianity often were omitted or presented as stereotypes, "as if all the women in the ancient world had been saints, whores, or invisible."[3] This article considers some of the specific roles of women described in the Bible, along with some of the more apparent attitudes held about them.


Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)

The Hebrew Bible (also called Tanakh in Judaism, Old Testament in Christianity and Taurat/Tawrah in Islam) is the basis for both Judaism and Christianity, and a cornerstone of Western culture. The views of women presented in the Hebrew Bible are complex and often ambivalent. Through its stories and its elaboration of statutes, the Hebrew Bible's views on women have helped shape gender roles and define the legal standing of women in the West for millennia. This influence has waned somewhat as Western culture has become progressively more secular, beginning at the Enlightenment.

Eve and Genesis

Creation narratives

The creation of Adam and Eve is narrated from somewhat different perspectives in Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 2:24. The Genesis 1 narration declares the purpose of God, antedating the creation of the sexes.[4] It has been called the "non-subordinating" view of woman.[5] God gave the human pair joint responsibility and "rulership" over his creation.

The Fall of humanity

Eve's weakness has sometimes been blamed for causing Adam's fall, and thus for humanity's fall into original sin.[6] This claim was made[citation needed] during the Middle Ages and was a subject in John Milton's classic epic, Paradise Lost.

Old Testament views on gender

According to classicist Edith Hamilton, the Bible is the only book in the world up to our century which looks at women as human beings, no better and no worse than men. She writes that the Old Testament writers considered them just as impartially as they did men, free from prejudice and even from condescension.[7] However, it cannot be said that the society and culture of Old Testament times were consistently favorable to women.

The accounts of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden[Gen 2-3] have been the subjects of considerable sociological[citation needed] and anthropological[citation needed] debate regarding the patriarchal family order, male dominance and female oppression. These debates have been used as a justification for the subordination of women and "for the rejection of Genesis as a source for male chauvinism."[8]

There is a male bias and a male priority generally present in both the private life and public life of women. However, it never becomes absolute.[5] In the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) of Exodus 20, aspects of both male priority and gender balance can be seen. In the tenth commandment, a wife is depicted in the examples not to be coveted: house, wife, male or female slave, ox or donkey, or 'anything that belongs to your neighbour.' (NIV) On the other hand, the fifth commandment does not make any distinction between honor to be shown to parents: "father and your mother." This is consistent with the mutual respect shown for both parents throughout the Old Testament.[5]

New Testament

Jesus' interactions with women

According to New Testament scholar Dr. Frank Stagg and classicist Evelyn Stagg, the synoptic Gospels of the canonical New Testament[9] contain a relatively high number of references to women. The Staggs find no recorded instance where Jesus disgraces, belittles, reproaches, or stereotypes a woman. These writers claim that examples of the manner of Jesus are instructive for inferring his attitudes toward women and show repeatedly how he liberated and affirmed women.[5]

Paul of Tarsus on women

The statements by and attitude of Paul of Tarsus concerning women is an important element in the theological debate about Christianity and women due to the fact that Paul was the first writer to give ecclesiastical directives about the role of women in the Church. However, there are arguments that some of these writings are post-Pauline interpolations.[10]

Apostle Peter on women

Submission to husband:

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives...."[1 Pet. 3:1]

Women as weaker partner:

"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."[1 Pet. 3:7]

See also


  1. ^ "Women in the Bible." WebBible Encyclopedia. Sept. 22, 2009.
  2. ^ Robinson, B.A. "The status of women in the Bible and in early Christianity." Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 2010. Web: http://www.religioustolerance.org/fem_bibl.htm 11 Sep 2010.
  3. ^ "Introduction. Women in the Bible." Web: http://www.womeninthebible.net/1.0.Introduction.htm 11 Sep 2010.
  4. ^ Starr, L. A. The Bible Status of Woman. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1926
  5. ^ a b c d Stagg, Evelyn and Frank. Woman in the World of Jesus. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978
  6. ^ Smith, Russell E. Jr. "Adam's Fall." ELH: a Journal of English Literary History, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), pp. 527-539
  7. ^ Quoted in Tanner, Stephen L. Women in Literature of the Old Testament. University of Idaho, 1975. ERIC ED112422.
  8. ^ Hyers, M. Conrad. The meaning of creation: Genesis and modern science. Westminster John Knox Press, 1984, p.3. ISBN 978-0804201254
  9. ^ Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  10. ^ Odell-Scott, D.W. "Editorial dilemma: the interpolation of 1 Cor 14:34-35 in the western manuscripts of D, G and 88." Web: 15 Jul 2010. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0LAL/is_2_30/ai_94332323/

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