The Oppression of Women vs. the Bible

In ancient Greece, lauded philosopher Plato advised that wives should be had in common, “as among other animals, so also among men.” The wife was barred from education and took no part in the welfare of the nation. The most honored figure on a woman’s tomb in that day of classic glory of Greece was a muzzle, suggesting that she should not speak, and a pair of reigns, teaching that she should be driven by her husband. Women were also offered as prizes at athletic games.

Enemies of Christianity claim that the Bible is chauvinistic, tribal, and barbaric. They say it degrades women. While men may have used the scriptures to justify all sorts of sins, including the oppression of women, this does not indicate that the Bible teaches such a thing. In fact, when the Bible is weighed against cultures with no Christian influence, the evidence is quite interesting. Heathen cultures have been responsible for the degradation of women, while the Bible has actually set them free.

Consider a few examples:

In Rome, the wife gave up all her family rights, her property became her husband’s, and she could not will anything to her relatives.

In Islamic Turkey, the wife was basically a slave. When a son is born, there is nothing but congratulations. When a daughter, nothing but condolences.

In ancient Germany, the wife waited at meal times at her husband’s feet for his commands. She was bought like any piece of property.

“The sanctity of the cow and the depravity of woman” are the two articles of the creed on which all sects of the Hindus are agreed. In a sacred Hindu book, it is decreed, “A woman has no other god on earth than her husband.”

Confucius said, “ten daughters do not equal one son.”

The only hope the great Buddha holds out for a woman is that in the course of ages she might turn out to be a man in the next world; and this is the burden of the prayers of the women of the Buddhists.

In South Africa, a girl baby can be sold for fourteen cows. The cows can be traded for more wives.

Mohammed’s third wife, Ayesha, was only nine years old when they were married. The majority of Muslim girls at the turn of the century married between nine and twelve.

Now what does the Bible say about all this?

Women were considered just as important in a marriage and family for children to obey and for children to leave for their marriages (Genesis 2:24; Exodus 20:12)

Virtuous women are honored by God and their families (Proverbs 31:10-31). Take a look at that oppressive scripture!

Women were Just as responsible for hearing and obeying the Law (Joshua 8:35).

Women participated in temple worship (Ezra 2:65).

Women acted as capable leaders when necessary (Judges 5:1-9).

Women had extremely important roles throughout history (Eve, Rahab, Ruth, Mary).

Jesus first appeared, after His resurrection, to Mary Magdelene (Matthew 16:9).

Wherever missionaries have gone with the true gospel, women have been liberated from the bondage of male-glorified societies. Why do women have so many rights in the United States? Simple: the USA was influenced by biblical principles. The same is true with the UN declaration of rights. The idea that there is dignity in being human, no matter male nor female, is a biblical idea!

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Of course, the Bible does teach specific gender roles. But this does not elevate man nor degrade woman. It simply teaches that God has a unique role to fulfill for each gender. This is the traditional complementarian view. Complementarianism, however, is not chauvinism.

Ephesians5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it

(illustrations taken from a wonderful, small, out-of-print book, Why Do I Believe the Bible Is God’s Word? by William Dallmann)


15 comments so far

  1. […] and Civlization Besides the oppression of women, the principles found in the Bible will always be found to contrast those of the heathen nations. […]

  2. Anna on

    I found this to search for material for an essay, saying that women were opressed before the itmes of capitalism.

    IT has been incredibly useful, and I found it well written and intelligent. Thankyou.

  3. Kit on

    God has loved and been supportive of the cause of women since time began.

    I am so thankful that He didn’t overlook us when it came to being Judges (Deborah) – Prophetesses (Anna, and others) and women of renown.

    Even Barak of the Old Testament book in Judges, told Deborah that when it came time for thier pople to go to war, he would NOT go without her. He was no doubt being directed by the Lord, for it was a woman that brought the end to the time of tyranny through Jael, another women, not well known i the scriptures.

  4. alfaarooq1 on

    Let us put your views to the test…

    Have a look at women in Islaam, see the rights of Marriage and at the bottom you may find a comparison between women in Islaam and women in christianity.

    We also know that there are the sad parts in life so have a look at them too…

    Can you deny the truth when it comes to you?

  5. karim on

    first of all….islam is against marriage of under age women and mohammed married Aysha when she was 18..get your historic facts right please if you will address another Faith that follows the same god you are preeching for..

    first of all the Veil in islam was never mentioned in the Holy Quran we got this from the Bible and Christian customs which shows that as a sign of modesty..
    in islam we have
    Men are further reminded: “Do not annoy women as to make their lives miserable.” (Qur’an 65:6).
    Prophet Muhammad said: “Only an honorable man treat women with honor and integrity. And only a mean, deceitful and dishonest man humiliates and insults women.” Referring to physical abuse, he added: “Never hit your wives, they are your partners and sincere helpers.” He exemplified this by never, ever, hitting a women or child. The Prophet guaranteed protection of the life, honor, and property of women.

    “And why should you not fight in the cause of God and on behalf of those, who being weak, are ill-treated and oppressed, men, women and children whose cry is, ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from these oppressors, and raise for us, from You, one who will protect and help.'” (Qur’an 4:75)
    and in Islam there are rules such as,
    -a man (other than father, husband, brother, son) cannon touch a woman.
    -and like a husband must not hit his wife.
    -and like a female and a male cannot date or have sexual interference with each other unless they are married
    -a woman must wear a scarf so that she wouldn’t look attractive to a man to that the man can keep away from her and not flirt or rape her.
    -and like the woman must wear long sleaves and not tight clothes so that a man won’t get attracted to her because of how she looks

    meanwhile if we look at the bible:
    here are some quotes i found in the bible about women’s rights:
    1.”Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives…”….Romans 7:2
    2. “For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does…”…..1 Corinthians 7:4
    4. “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman but woman for man.”….1 Corinthians, 11:8
    5. “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”…..Timothy 2:11
    Its funny how the media portrays islam as anti-women yet the bible has even worse quotes that degrade women but no one considers christianity to be anti-women.

  6. BillyB on

    Whoever wrote this ridiculous article needs TO READ the bible for themselves instead of listening to your minister and whoever else has you brain washed. The bible IS DEFINITELY against women.

    • Damien T Garofalo on

      Right. Well, I appreciate your interaction with the specific arguments posed, the Bible verses cited, the examples given, etc.. . . .

  7. george on

    This article is degrading to women. To say that the bible is not oppressive to women is outright ridiculous and i assure you if you have read even the first chapter of Genesis you will find that women are condemned from the very roots of your patriarchal religion.

    thank you

    • Damien T Garofalo on

      Of course, you haven’t challenged anything specifically in the article, but, who’s keeping score?

  8. theotherrosie on

    The bible mostly includes a regurgitation of pagan writings from over a thousand years before the bible was written.

  9. JMT on

    I am a christian but struggle with my faith because I am a woman. I know that God has the right to do whatever He wants and has every right to treat women as inferior and that is exactly what He did. I struggle to view Him as fair and just but I fear punishment for disobedience.I do not view Him as loving towards women.

    I am married but after I got married and really started thinking about things I realized that women in essence receive a demotion in life when they marry and men receive a promotion.You go from being your boyfriends equal to his subordinate. I am not sure why christian women even marry.

    When I talk to other women I encourage them to think long and hard before marrying and inform them that unless they like subservience and always having to surrender on every disagreement, even when they know with certainty their husband is wrong don’t get married. To always have to take 2nd place in everything. Sure, women are told husband gets final say(insist upon his own way) and that they are to submit to this but the reality is many will resent their husbands for this as it is selfish. I find it funny that 2 elders can make decisions without a final say trump card yet a husband and wife can’t do the hard work to come to a mutually acceptable plan.

    I find out funny that religious leaders like to talk about how bad things were for women before Christianity in order to convince us that submitting is so grand. (notice it is usually all men who talk about how great it is, men who don’t see themselves doing this)
    The bottom line is women drew the short end of the stick in christian life. To be born with female anatomy is a curse. I hope my children do not have any daughters.

    Usually when our children are young and find themselves with bossy, controlling, must always call the shots(final say) friends we encourage them to find different friends. Yet this is the very thing God supports from a husband. How many men would want to be told they have to obey another person? How many would really believe they were the person’s equal if they always had to acquiesce to the demands of the other person? How many men would like hearing that their wife had the right to tell them what to wear, what to eat, where they can and cannot go, who you can talk to, what time dinner should be served, how the furniture can be arranged, what you can read etc. I daresay honest men would have to confess they wouldn’t like it one little bit. How many men would like to be told that every-time there is a disagreement you must give in to your wife’s wishes as she gets final say? How many honest men are there who will admit this is all rather unpleasant. Most men would not marry and quite frankly I don’t understand why women do.

    I encourage all christian women to remain single. Stop buying the line that it doesn’t make you inferior because it absolutely does in every way. They can package it up with slick pleasant sounding words but it is still God ordained subservience and subordination to God’s preferred gender creation..

  10. Anna on

    I believe in Jesus and just studying his words in the Bible, there is nothing misogynistic about his teachings. He’s AWESOME!!
    Having said that, I struggle with many passages in the Bible that seem both contradictory to Jesus’ teachings and degrading and unfair to women and I have never found a suitable explanation for them:

    Look at Levitcus 27, which places the value of women at all ages at less than men. Even baby girls are lesser than baby boys. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 states that a woman should marry her rapist.

    1 Peter pretty much tells women to submit to domestic violence. Peter seems to value the salvation of the man more than the safety of the woman. I realize there were no domestic violence shelters to go to, and no rule of law protected women, but he still could have advised women to leave and find refuge among believers.

    The submission verses if Ephesians 5 bother me also. Paul tells women to submit in everything. This is a clearly teaching that oppressing women and keeping them silent is ok.
    A woman can not submit in everything and not be oppressed. Even comparing marriage to Christ and the Church is degrading. Christ is superior to humans, in every respect, but men are only superior to women in physical strength. Women seem “stronger” in areas of compassion and understanding. Also, not all men lead well. Many women do. Not all women need nor want to be led. If women are always under male authority, there are going to be many marital problems that a more egalitarian union could resolve. The Bible seems to presume that all men are smart and lead well and all women are dumb and confused.

    I am also baffled by the fact that the Bible never condemns the selling of young girls into marriage. It seems to uphold the property status of women from cover to cover.

    The Bible also refers in a few places to the order of creation to justify male authority. Ok. Adam was created before Eve. But, women have given birth to billions of men in pain, while one woman was taken from one man while the man slept. Order of creation does prove an ability to lead.

    Some Christians believe single women remain under the authority of their fathers. My father makes bad decisions. My life would be problematic if I had to submit to him (and if I were single.) I am an adult and a better decision maker than he is, why should I submit just because Adam was created before Eve?

  11. Anna on

    Oops, I meant Order of Creation does not prove an ability to lead.

  12. glorfindel14 on

    Ok so I realize this conversation went down 6 years ago but I just wanna say some things and ask a few questions. First of all, I REALLY like this article and thx Damien for writing such a clear and logical article on this subject. First I’ll respond to some of karim’s claims about Islam and then respond to some of karims attacks on Christianity and the Bible:
    1) Aisha was indeed 6 when she was married to Mohammed, and he consummated their marriage when she was 9.
    2) Also, you say that us Christians worship the same god that you do. That is NOT TRUE. Muslims worship Allah, a God who is basically nothing like the True God of the Bible. Allah has none of the Trinitarian nature of our God. Your God is one person, ours is Three in One. Also, Allah judges people for heaven or hell based on their works alone; if they have accomplished more good deeds than bad, then they get to heaven. The true God of the Bible saves those who he will by drawing them into a loving, believing, trusting relationship with him; Jesus is not a prophet as Islam claims but the son of God who came to earth and lived on earth, and finally dying on earth to take the punishment for our sins, so the relationship I mentioned could actually happen.Those two means of salvation are very, very different. So let me say it again: We do not worship the same God that you do. Now that I think of it, the Quran says that you can get into heaven if you go out killing “infadels”. This is the basis of the terrorism we see today…
    4) All those verses from the Quran probably do exist; I have not looked into Islam enough, so I’ll assume they are legit.
    3) Ok so you really can’t say that Islam never supported marrying girls at very young ages. That’s a historical fact. Like I said earlier, THE FOUNDER of Islam, Mohammed himself married a girl who was six…
    4) So you say women are forced to wear long sleeves and scarves and cover themselves practically entirely. That seems a little oppressive to me…
    Ok so now to respond to your attacks on the Bible…
    1) You used Romans 7:2 to say that the Bible oppresses women. “For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.” Romans 7:2. That does not seem like oppression. That first verse is simply stating that women are bound to their husbands as long as they live, as are husbands to their wives. This is not oppression this is just the sanctity of marriage and the fact that husbands and wives are bound together at marriage.
    2) You also used 1 Corinthians 7:4: “For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does…” -1 Corinthians 7:4. This is not oppression but the natural roles God gave men and women. Men and women are given different roles in marriage. As long as the husband follows the rules given by God to him, his authority over his wife is no oppression but a blessing. As for the whole “body” part of the verse, I interpret this to mean that the woman’s body is a part of the “one flesh” created by marriage. (1 Corinthians 6:16) the man’s body is as well, and since he has authority over that one flesh (again this is not oppression as long as the man is following the rules God has set in place), the husband does rule over the wife’s body. But this is fundamentally different from “oppression” which according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, means: “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.” If the man if Following Gods rules then his dominion over the wife will not be oppression.
    3) Just because women are not supposed to have authority over men (1Timothy 2:11) does not mean that they are any less than men in value to God or value at all. Women are just as important and valuable as men (for more support see the verses and topics that Damien has in his article ☺), they just have different roles. They are the supporters and the encouragers and many more VERY important tasks and attributes that men are not as strong in. Men and women are different and just have different roles. It just so happens that men are the leaders and protectors. Men and women’s attributes compliment each other perfectly if both behave the way God designed and lays out in the Bible.
    4) Finally, some people think that women should have just as much as authority as men in marriage and family. This is a rebellion against God and his design for the roles of men and women. If God wanted to give men the gift of authority then who are any of us to question his decision?
    Anyway, those are some thoughts.

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