Isn’t the Bible sexist?
Critics of Christianity often point to verses about the role of women in the church or the household as proof that God devalues women’s nature and gifts.
But is it true? Is the Bible — and is God — actually biased against women?
In a concise and well-reasoned video, Dr. Amy Orr-Ewing responds with a resounding “no.”
Dr. Orr-Ewing begins by asking, “Why shouldn’t people be sexist?”
After all, we’re living in a society that purportedly believes in the ideal of “survival of the fittest” and the evolutionary right of the strong to dominate the weak.
If one sex is stronger than the other, doesn’t it have the right to discriminate?
The answer, of course, is no. But it’s an interesting question to consider in light of our culture’s fascination with the idea of evolution.
Amy goes on to discuss the Bible’s vision for gender equality, which is first displayed in Genesis.
Male and female are both created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). One is not more important than the other.
Instead, both sexes work together to bear the full image of God.
Even though God created the man first and brought the woman to be his “helper,” women were never an afterthought.
The Hebrew word for “helper,” ezer, is also used throughout the Old Testament as a description of God! He considers Himself a “helper” for the people of Israel and for each of His children.
It’s not a sexist or demeaning term that describes a woman trapped in the kitchen. It’s a word for a powerful and strong aide in battle.
And God does not privilege males over females in His relationships with humans.
Throughout the Old Testament, we’re given examples of strong, independent women who related to God on their own terms.
Miriam led the entire nation of Israel in worship. As a judge, Deborah made political decisions and helped to rule Israel.
These women, as Dr. Orr-Ewing points out, didn’t need men to mediate their contact with God. They didn’t need a husband to be valid in the eyes of God.
God met them and worked through them as they were.
These women had faults, just like their male counterparts in the Bible, but they were also used by God for His glory.
Dr. Orr-Ewing continues her response by moving into the New Testament.
Jesus radically resisted the sexism of his time, meeting and speaking with women throughout His ministry on earth.
This often shocked his disciples, who weren’t sure how to respond.
The Gospels are filled with powerful stories of women who played crucial roles in Jesus’ work of salvation.
After all, who gave birth to Jesus?
Mary, a young, unmarried woman who received her calling with incredible faith.
Who cared for Jesus as He preached and ministered?
Martha, her sister Mary, and a crowd of other women who opened their homes and used their gifts to provide for Christ and His disciples on their travels.
Who remained at the cross until Jesus breathed His last breath?
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and many other women who had followed Jesus and cared for Him.
And who was the first to see the resurrected Christ?
Mary Magdalene, a woman!
All of these women, Dr. Orr-Ewing says, were examples of a faith that embraces people regardless of gender.
Our practice of gender equality may be imperfect, but God’s precedent is not.
Despite all these examples, however, accusers still cite particular Bible verses which they claim subjugate and degrade women.
Dr. Orr-Ewing makes a point of responding to these verses.
1 Corinthians 14:34 discusses the concept of women being silent in church. At first glance, this sounds like a command for women not to speak at all.
But Dr. Orr-Ewing argues that a study of the historical context helps us interpret this verse as a simple command to not disrupt the service, as a few specific women were doing.
1 Timothy 2:12 is another hotly-contested verse. This verse forbids women from teaching to, or holding authority over, men—or does it?
Dr. Orr-Ewing offers more historical insight into this verse.
Many female followers of the false goddess Artemis came into the early church with the idea that they were superior to men and could therefore dominate them.
In this verse, Paul was cautioning these women to respect the male Christians around them and that no one was superior in the family of God.
It’s important to note that different Christians have different convictions on the idea of gender roles in the church.
As brothers and sisters, we practice God’s standard for gender equality—and equality in general—by respecting each other. This includes those different convictions.
Dr. Orr-Ewing concludes with a quote from the writer Dorothy L. Sayers:
“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything ‘funny’ about woman’s nature.”
Indeed, the Bible is the continuing story of God’s love for both women and men.
It’s exciting and refreshing to read about the many women used by God in His story. God has a place for all of us in His kingdom!
To find out more, watch the video below – you’ll be well-equipped for the next time someone asks you, “Is the Bible sexist?”