Biblical Viewpoints on Women
The Bible is primarily a religious book about the covenant between the creator and creation, between God and humankind. But it’s important to remember that the people described in the Bible and the human authors who wrote the Bible (even though inspired, according to Christian and Jewish tradition, by the Holy Spirit) were born, grew up, lived, and died within a specific culture and society. Often, those cultures and societies weren’t determined, controlled, or sometimes even influenced by the Judeo-Christian faith and religion by itself, so contrasts inevitably arise. In other words, the Bible teaches in Genesis that all men and all women are made in the image and likeness of God — but secular, political, economic, and cultural practice rarely reflected that truth, as revealed in biblical history.
Women as spiritual equals
The Bible teaches that women are equal to men at the supernatural level — the level of grace:
- Women have spiritual equality to men; they have the same kind of immortal soul and the same possible eternal destiny.
- Like men, women are made in the image and likeness of God.
- Also like men, women are called to live lives of holiness.
- Human nature is the samefor women as it is for men (body and soul, intellect and will), yet there are some real differences, physiological and psychological, between the sexes. These differences distinguish and complement each other.
Although women have suffered from inequality socially, economically, and culturally, it is unfair and erroneous to use the Bible to justify such inequalities merely because you can read in scripture of instances where inequality was practiced. God didn’t inspire injustice, and the Bible doesn’t condone it. Just because the book reports sins, crimes, and injustices doesn’t mean that it endorses or approves of those evils. The Bible has many stories of notable women like Deborah, who was a Judge in Israel in the twelfth century BC, the first female political and military leader of her people. In addition, women were afforded equal respect in the Ten Commandments when God instructed us to “Honor your father and your mother”(Exodus 20:12). Nevertheless, keep in mind that other women in the Bible were treated shamefully or as property because of the weaknesses of humankind in general and because of the specific weaknesses of the men who lived during that time.
Good versus evil: A gender-blind concept
When Moses received the Ten Commandments (the Law) from God on Mount Sinai, he didn’t come back with two versions, one for men and one for women. The Law applied to all men and women.
The significance of a single set of laws is the idea that evil has no claim on either gender. Throughout biblical salvation history, women and men alike have been individually good or individually bad. Each person had to make his or her own personal choice: Do I do good or do I do evil?
You see good women and bad women in the Bible, just as there are good men and bad men. Jezebel (bad) and Esther (good) are as much a part of the Bible as are Herod (bad) and John the Baptist (good).
Morality, free will, and Fido
Morality is gender blind because moral acts, which can be either good or bad, are possible only when free will is invoked. Only deliberate and voluntary actions can be qualified as moral acts. For that reason, your kitty, your pooch, and your laptop computer can’t ever sin, because they lack free will. The first two work on instinct, the other by program. Men and women, however, can freely choose to act or not to act.
According to Hebrew history as outlined in the Bible, harmony existed among the Hebrews as long as they stayed united with God by keeping the covenant (the sacred oath between God and the Hebrew people). When the people were unfaithful to their promise, sin occurred and brought disunity and division. False prophets arose, and authentic ones were ignored, killed, or chased away. When idolatry (idol worship), the epitome of religious infidelity, raised its ugly head, the kingdom itself was divided into north and south, and both were eventually wiped off the world map. Jews and Christians believe that the current divisions among nations and even among the Christian churches are signs of this division and that much work has to be done by both genders to repair the schism.