Is Christianity or the Bible misogynistic?
by Matt Slick
Christianity is not misogynistic. Misogyny is a hatred of and distrust of women. When asking if something is misogynistic, we are dealing with subjective opinions because what one person might consider to be misogynistic, another might not. So, without an absolute standard it is difficult to make a universal judgment. All that is left is opinions. Nevertheless, that has not stopped critics of the Bible from citing various verses, usually out of context, and then raising the accusation of misogyny. But the Scriptures teach many positive things about women. So, if we are to conclude that Christianity is misogynistic because there are some verses that can be interpreted in a negative fashion, then we must also say that Christianity is not misogynistic because there are some verses that are positive about women. Therefore, the validity of misogyny depends upon the subjective preferences and presuppositions of the person who approaches the Scriptures, not on any universal truth. But not only that, critics must be careful with their ethnocentricity and not judge another culture by their own subjective preferences.
Nevertheless, here are some very positive teachings about women in the Bible.
- Genesis 1:27, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
- Exodus 20:12, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you."
- Leviticus 19:3, "‘Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the LORD your God."
- Judges 4:4, "Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time."
- Proverbs 5:18, "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth."
- Proverbs 31:10, 26-27, "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. 26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness."
- Matthew 15:28, "Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once."
- Colossians 3:19, "Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them."
- Eph. 5:25-26, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word."
- Ephesians 5:28, "So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself."
Are the previous verses listed all demonstrations of the hatred and distrust of women? Of course not. If anything, they show that women are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), that women are to be honored (Exodus 20:12), that an excellent wife is worth more than jewels (Proverbs 31:10), that husbands are to love their wives (Colossians 3:19, Ephesians 5:25), etc. Still, critics often ignore these verses and cite others in an attempt to show that Christianity has a hatred and distrust of women. Let me list a few of them and respond to each.
- 1 Corinthians 11:3, " But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ."
- Headship is not misogyny. In biblical theology the male represents the descendants (federal headship) and is the one who has responsibility of leadership. This is not a hatred for women. If anything, it is a protection for them. Furthermore, if it is misogynistic to say that the man is the head of a woman, then what do they say about God the Father being the head of Christ? Does it mean that God the Father hates his Son because he is his head? Of course not.
- 1 Corinthians 11:9, "for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake."
- Eve was made to assist Adam in his responsibilities of governing The Garden (Genesis 2:18). She was made to help him carry out the command of God because he was insufficient for the task alone. He needed a woman to make him complete and enable him to carry out his charge. This is not misogyny. It is working together to achieve the commands of God.
- 1 Corinthians 14:34, "Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says."
- The cultural context is important because it sheds light on the meaning of the text. In the culture of that day, men and women had certain social orders. Women were dependent upon their husbands for protection and provision, and their speaking in the context of the church, where male and females were separated, would be an act of public independence demonstrating a rebellion against the social norms. Furthermore, when it says "let them subject themselves," we must understand that subjection is voluntary. It is not stated that they are to obey - which is mandatory. Rather, they are told to "subject themselves." Women who chose to do that were revered in that culture.
- Finally, if the critic is not satisfied with this explanation, so be it. But what gives him the right to assert that another culture's norms are not as good as his own? If he says it's because we are more modern, then he would be saying because our culture is newer, it is better. This, of course, is not logically true.
- Colossians 3:18, "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord."
- The wife's subjection to the husband in the biblical context is a voluntary subjection. Notice that it does not say wives must obey their husbands. Because man is created as the head, as the leader in the family, the wife's position is to voluntarily subject herself to his leadership. However, it does not mean that she is a doormat to be walked on, ignored, or abused.
- Furthermore, Jesus, who is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14), voluntarily subjected himself to God the Father (Philippians 2:5-8). Does this mean that Jesus is inferior to the Father? Of course not.
- 1 Timothy 2:12–13, "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve."
- Notice that Paul bases the issue of authority to the created order of God. This is not a cultural norm. Furthermore, the next chapter states in 1 Timothy 3:15 that Paul is giving instruction on how people are to behave in the church, not society. The critic has no right to judge what should and should not be done in the Christian church. He certainly has a right to disagree and voice his opinion, but such a disagreement is nothing more than his opinion.
- 1 Peter 3:7, "You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."
- The Greek word for "weaker vessel" is ἀσθενής, asthenas. It means "without strength," "without physical ability." The weaker vessel is being spoken of in the physical sense. It is a fact that women are physically weaker than men. Along with this statement is the admonition to grant the woman the place of being a fellow heir of the grace of life. This was in elevation of the status of women in a culture that often deemed them inferior.
- Revelation 14:4, "These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb."
- The "defiling themselves with women" deals with illicit sexual activity, fornication. It is not talking about a husband having sexual relations with his wife as being defilement. The Scriptures never considered sexual union as being anything other than holy.
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