We have been looking at various bible difficulties over a number of weeks. Another difficulty people commonly raise with the bible is that it appears by many to be quite sexist. The Old Testament is mostly dominated by men and when true heroines do appear they still seem to be subservient to men (such as Esther).
When reading the Old Testament we should be mindful that it is a very ancient book. It records events as they were ‘warts and all’ it was written without intention to gloss over the nasty parts. When reading it, you must consider the culture at the time which treated women very badly and on many occasions as no more important that property. They were not allowed to contribute fully in society and were constantly subjugated, such as the draconian divorce laws which allowed for a man to hand his wife a written divorce paper for simply burning the dinner. Within all this injustice and inequality, if we read the bible carefully, we see a God who continually stepped in and gave women honour and dignity. God’s intention has always been that men and women are to work side by side, each with their own specific gifts and tasks to perform. There are some significant women in the bible such as Deborah who was one of Israel’s judges who Inspired Israel to victory when men weren’t up to the job (Judges 4&5). Other strong women in the Old Testament were Rahab, Esther and Ruth. Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Jesus resurrected after his crucifixion (John 20:15-18). There were also women at Pentecost who were filled with the Holy Spirit when He fell in power. It was a woman who truly grasped what Jesus was going to face before any of his disciples caught on in Mark 14:8. And it was almost exclusively women who stayed with him at the cross (John was the only exception)
In Galatians 3:28 it says There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
We are all equal before God. So how do we square this passage with for example 1 Timothy 2:12?
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.
Do they not contradict each other? I don’t think so, because although we are equal and one in Christ, we have different roles assigned to us. God has made us and designed us to fulfill certain functions. There are of course always exceptions but in general He designed men; bigger and stronger to protect women and children and He gave women much more compassion and durability when it comes to child rearing etc. It has never ceased to amaze me how women cope with the demands of small children and the care and attention they provide 24/7. I have always maintained that infant mortality would increase dramatically if it were only men responsible for their upbringing! We are made in a certain way to fulfill roles that God has ordained that men and women should complete. These roles are not haphazard, they are part of His great design. He is certainly not being sexist!
We mustn’t take verses out of context though and it is important firstly to say that the translation ‘man’ in 1 Timothy 2 could equally be translated husband, which adds a whole new light to this verse. Also, this verse could conceivably be referring to one particularly domineering woman in Ephesus where Timothy was leading. But in other New Testament passages we also see women teaching. Women such as Priscilla, who with her husband Aquila taught Apollos (Acts 18:26) and Timothy himself was taught by his mother and his grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15)
I believe the only office not available to women is that of an Elder. Unfortunately, some people seem to spend all their time debating this one prohibition when there are numerous other wonderful roles that God has provided to complete and fulfill women. Instead of complaining, we should be encouraging women to reach their full potential and thrive in everything He has given them to do. As the French say vive la difference!