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Women in the Bible


Women in the Bible

There are 188 named[1] women in the Bible and many others that are left unnamed. Among these women are prominent queens, prophetesses, and leaders. Before and during Biblical times, the roles of women were almost always severely restricted.[2] Because biblical stories were written about important events, most of the people in the Bible, including women, usually have extreme personalities. 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.[3]


  • Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) 1
    • Eve and Genesis 1.1
      • Creation narratives 1.1.1
      • The Fall of humanity 1.1.2
    • Old Testament views on gender 1.2
  • New Testament 2
    • Jesus' interactions with women 2.1
    • Paul the Apostle and women 2.2
    • Apostle Peter on women 2.3
  • See also 3
  • References 4

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 and . 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

Although readers associate Eve with the fall of humanity, there is no explicit reference to a "fall," "sin," or "guilt" in Genesis 3. Many readers overlook Adam's presence when Eve bites the fruit since English Bibles frequently omit that the man was "with her" (Genesis 3:6).[6] Eve's weakness has sometimes been blamed for causing Adam's fall, and thus for humanity's fall into original sin.[7] This claim was made during the Middle Ages and is disputed in John Milton's classic epic, Paradise Lost.

Old Testament views on gender

Edith Hamilton again, considering the position of women, wrote that the Old Testament writers considered them just as impartially as they did men, free from prejudice and even from condescension.[3] 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 have been the subjects of considerable sociological and anthropological 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 , 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. This is consistent with the mutual respect shown for both parents throughout the Old Testament.[5]

According to other writers, the Bible rarely describes the average woman, "as if all the women in the ancient world had been saints, whores, or invisible."[9]

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[10] 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 the Apostle and women

The statements by and attitude of Paul the Apostle 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.[11]

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...."

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: 11 Sep 2010.
  3. ^ a b Quoted in Tanner, Stephen L. Women in Literature of the Old Testament. University of Idaho, 1975. ERIC ED112422.
  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. ^ J.F. Parker "Blaming Eve Alone" Journal of Biblical Literature 132.4 (Winter 2103), pp. 729-47
  7. ^ Smith, Russell E. Jr. "Adam's Fall." ELH: a Journal of English Literary History, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), pp. 527-539
  8. ^ Hyers, M. Conrad. The meaning of creation: Genesis and modern science. Westminster John Knox Press, 1984, p.3. ISBN 978-0-8042-0125-4
  9. ^ "Introduction. Women in the Bible." Web: 11 Sep 2010.
  10. ^ Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  11. ^ 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.
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