The Bible and the Oppression of Women
The Bible and the oppression of women.
It seems to be a fact that almost all primates live in male dominated societies. There have been a few female dominated societies among mankind, But it is generally thought that hunter gatherers were mainly egalitarian.
That all changed in the Middle East with the advent of complex mixed societies that started to arise around 3000 bce, and is reflected in the Jewish bible. That’s why it took until the 1920s for most women to get the vote in Western civilization.
The feminist movement has made a lot of inroads in the last century, but it is difficult to fight literally centuries of being considered inferior and even evil by men in society. It is even harder to fight the religions that foster and resign as holy that very concept.
That is why it strikes me as strange that more women are religious than men, and yet men dominate religion. The bible and the church fathers from all three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all find women repugnant with only one duty, to produce male off spring and cater to the men in their lives. They are property.
The list of passages putting down women in the bible is almost endless. To me it is amazing that women can believe and pass on this information about themselves and even agree with it. No wonder that women often suffer from low self esteem and low self worth.
Society is changing, but the history of religion does not. Let’s look at some of the biblical history of this oppression. Genesis 1:27 tells us man and woman were created at the same time, meaning that they would have been equal and both created in god’s image. This was due to one of the factions of Judaism who believed that to be true. But they were not the majority and lost the battle to another group who brought us Eve.
In the Eve story god says it is not good that Adam does not have a partner. It seems he created all other animals male and female but he produced man in the image of god so he was alone. After showing Adam all the animals in the field, Adam still couldn’t find a suitable mate. Little wonder.
So does god create a woman from clay and breathe life into her too? No. He takes on of Adam’s ribs and makes her in the image of man, instead of the image of god. She is called woman, because she is made from man. Let the oppression begin. In Genesis 3:16 it tells us: “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
1 Corinthians 11 "Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and the head of Christ is God.”
1 Corinthians 11:7-9:"For a man is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head."
1 Corinthians 14:34-35: "...women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says, If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."
Ephesians 5:22-24: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife...wives should submit to their husbands in everything."
In the Middle East it is common for men to have more than one wife. Usually the wealthy have more than one as a status symbol. The more money he has the more woman he can rule. Many of the old biblical figures had more than one wife. David had many wives, for example.
In the Garden of Eden story it is Eve who eats of the forbidden fruit, and then gives it to Adam. For ever after women are seen as evil in the bible.
Thomas Aquinas said: "As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence."
Augustine wrote: "What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman......I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children."
But the Protestant Church has nothing to brag about either. Martin Luther wrote: "If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there." Nice guy.
Fundamentalism is no different: Jerry Falwell "Most of these feminists are radical, frustrated lesbians, many of them, and man-haters, and failures in their relationships with men, and who have declared war on the male gender. The Biblical condemnation of feminism has to do with its radical philosophy and goals. That's the bottom line." Go Jerry go.
So what does the OT tell us about women? Well here’s a general indicator. When the men of Sodom gathered to demand Lot send out his visitors so they can rape them, what does Lot offer to do instead? "I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes." Really? Rape them if you think it is a good thing to do? Really? And god let him live?
But he wasn’t the only one. The same story is told in Judges 19:16 "Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing." Don’t harm the man, but you can have these lowly women.
All through Exodus women are treated like property. In fact, the ten commandments tells us they are property. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's." Wife and ox… same thing. Woman were property and nothing more. Woman were often sold or given away, even to servants. Exodus 21:2-4: "If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing....If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself."
Exodus 21:7: "And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do." She was also never given her freedom, while men only had to serve 6 years. If a man raped a woman but her father would not give her to the rapist, the rapist had to pay compensation. Again. Woman are clearly property according to the OT.
They are also unclean. When they have a menstrual cycle they are to hide in a hut away from everyone else. Men are forbidden to go near her. She is not allowed to go into the priesthood nor even learn the Torah. That’s for men only. Numbers 3:15 tells us only males were taken in the census. "Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by their families: every male from a month old and upward shalt thou number them." Deuteronomy 22:28-29 tells us that a virgin who has been raped is required to marry her rapist.
Women are temptresses and evil. Genesis 19:30-36 tells us about Lots daughters who get him so drunk he doesn’t know what he is doing, so they can have children. He didn’t know what he was doing? Judges 16 tells us Delilah seduced Samson to find out what made him so strong, and eventually kills him. 1 Kings tells us Solomon’s wives are the ones who convince him to worship false idols. It wasn’t his idea. Same as Adam who wimps out and blames Eve for his eating of the fruit. Men just don’t take blame in the bible. It’s always the woman.
What did Paul have to say? : 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
1 Timothy 2:11-14 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”
St. Tertullian in the second century said it all: "Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die."
How can any woman with a bit of self respect be a Christian? It astounds me.