Yesterday’s post listed many Bible passages that demonstrate the high view of women that is held by the scriptures. As expected, the comments seemed to ignore these many passages, and go straight to the few that are not popular in today’s culture. Today we will deal with the common passages that are cited as troublesome.
“If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
25 “But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, 27 because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.” (Deut. 22:23-27)
The idea here is that if a man rapes a women in the city, someone would have come to rescue her, but out in the country, they would not. Keep in mind that a city in those days had people piled into very close quarters, with no glass windows to block the sound. People literally ate and slept within a few feet of every neighbor; it would be difficult to even have a private conversation, let alone an attack happen in secret. (Neighbors often watched people eat. see Luke 7:36-37). A woman being raped could not be done without someone knowing.
Also keep in mind that the problems caused by sexual sins can literally destroy a society, and the consequences for such sins was severe, both for men and for women.
“21 …submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”(Eph. 5:21-25)
First, note that v.21 comes before vs.22-25, and provides the outline for 22-25. We are told to submit one to another, then Paul expands on the concept, with instructions for both women and men. To take v.22 out of the context of vs.21-25 and build a case around it as if it were in isolation is to wrench it from its moorings and make it say something in which it does not say.
Verse 21 tells all Christians, wives and husbands included, to submit one to another. Paul then gets a bit more specific, saying to the wives to submit to their husbands, and the husbands to give their lives for their wives. Note that the passage is to wives to voluntarily submit, not for husbands to make their wives do anything. The husband is told to act as Christ did, who gave everything, including His life, for the benefit of others. The command to both husbands and wives are to be more interested in the other’s happiness than in themselves.
The same is true for Colossians 3:16-22, where we are first told to ‘admonish one another’, then Paul gives the same instructions to both wives and husbands.
“Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless. ” Rev. 14:1-5)
The issue is with v.4, where it mentions ‘defiled themselves with women’. As always, the context here reveals the importance. Christians are repeatedly described as the bride of Christ (Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17). As such, a bride is to be pure and undefiled. Any bride who had had sex before marriage would not have been pure. This passage in Rev. 14 is merely saying that the bride was a virgin, pure and undefiled, without lying tongue, and blameless.
“How then can man be in the right before God?
How can he who is born of woman be pure?” (Job 25:4)
Again, the context explains the issue. This statement is from Job’s unbiblical critic, Bildad (v.1), who was accusing Job of having sin which caused his troubles. Verse 4 says that no one can be right before God, no one born can be pure. The phrase ‘born of a women’ merely means anyone born, which is what Bildad was trying to say to Job.
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. ” (1 Peter 3:7)
That women are physically weaker is no surprise. If you doubt this, merely check the weightlifing records. This says nothing about women being inferior. Of special note is the rest of the verse, which is a command to the husband to be honoring to the wife, and saying that both wives and husbands are joint heirs of God’s grace. It is amazing that a verse such as this, which shows equality of women under God even though they are physically weaker, and commands men to honor them, is twisted to somehow mean just the opposite. That such interpretations arise demonstrates the biases with which we approach the text.
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”(1 Cor. 11:1-3)
That there is a Biblical order to the church should be no surprise. We are all asked to recognize Christ as the head of the church, and this passage tells us there is a biblical head to the family. When balanced with the many passages that we have seen that command both husbands and wives to submit to one another, to admonish one another, to love one another, such an order is right and proper. Only by taking this verse in isolation does it come to mean some sort of domination by men, which it does not teach. Note that nowhere are men told to dominate women. This passage, in context, is a command to everyone in the church to recognize the biblical authority that Paul set up (v.2).
“As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” (1 Cor. 14:33-35).
Chapters 12 to 14 of 1 Corinthians are a lengthy statement spoken against a particular church at Corinth who were doing their services wrong. They were all speaking at the same time in languages that visitors could not understand (14:23). Thus the context is instructions for doing church services in a respectful order. In those days, women were mostly not educated, and would have to ask their husbands to explain something the pastor said. Rather than ask during the church service, Paul instructs the women that if they need to learn something, to ask their husbands at home rather than be whispering during the service. Note the others, besides women, who are also told to be silent in v.28 and v.30.
Since this post is already too long, I’ll stop here. I think it gives a good perspective if you take the passages listed here in context, and compare them to the many verses listed in the previous blog post. Many people are convinced that the Bible is prejudiced against women, and ignore the many passages listed in Part 1, and merely toss around the passages listed here, and do so without reading them in context or making an honest attempt to understand what they are saying.
In the end, the Bible is shown to have a high view of women, a viewpoint that has lifted them out of the poor positions they have had in almost every culture.