What the Bible says about Women: Understanding Biblical Context

The entire Bible was directly written to three people groups; Jews (Israelites), Greeks and Romans. In order to understand the context, it’s important that we first know their culture concerning women.

Phariseeism

From Malachi to Matthew was 400 years. Within these 400 years, the religion called Judaism emerged. Judaism is not the working out of the Old Testament. Have you noticed that there are no Pharisees and scribes in the Old Testament? They were the ones who developed this religion within the 400-year period. Just like Buddhism, Confucianism, and even Christianity, the religion was created in the name of a person who wasn’t looking forward to creating a religion, this time in the person of Moses. There were 252 laws in the Old Testament (Law of Moses) but by the time Jesus was born, these guys had made it 613, including 100 laws against women. It includes the following;

Jewish Culture

In the Jewish setting at the time of Paul, women were the legal property of the men they married. They were considered candid slaves without a voice. They were allowed little or no formal education. Boys were sent to learn their dad’s profession while the girls stayed home with their mothers. Women were forbidden to speak to men in public and were required to veil their face when in public. Jesus broke this law with the Samaritan woman He spoke with.

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

John 4:27 NIV

If she was caught unveiled, the man is required by law to file for divorce. A woman wasn’t allowed to eat on the same table with a man unless he was her husband. If the husband invited a guest, she was required to eat in a separate room. Marriage was betrothal; she was chosen to be married not the other way round, and there was little she could do about that.

Whenever the writers of the Gospel wrote that Mary Magdalene was following Jesus, they were actually drawing the readers’ attention to the inclusive ministry of Christ. Women never followed the Phaarisee’s congregation. They were allowed by Judaic law to do so or even be part of the scribes. Religion was a men’s club. Jesus is indeed the friend of the anomalies;

In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

Mark 15:41 NIV

Polygamy was allowed for men so women usually shared their husband with other women. Women weren’t allowed to vote. She even couldn’t be a witness in a court case because the scribes and Pharisees believed women were inherently liars. They weren’t allowed to read the Torah or even be taught the Torah (law of Moses). Jesus broke this law when He taught Mary.

…Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.

Luke 10:39b NIV

They basically weren’t supposed to do or be anywhere that involved more than one man. Thank God we’ve drastically grown past that as a generation. It will be therefore absurd our side to go back to these things in the name of doctrine just because it’s written in the Bible. Ask yourself first, what’s the context of the content?

As already stated, the Bible was written to 3 people groups; Greeks, Romans and Jews, especially the epistles. As I’ve already discussed the Jewish culture, and now I want to continue with that of the Greeks and Romans, so we understand why Paul said the things he said.

Roman Culture

The books that were written to the Romans have no correction for women. No instructions were given by Paul to the Romans to restrict women from teaching or exercising authority. Why? In Roman culture, no one cared who was a woman and who wasn’t. Roman women could buy and sell property.

Unlike Jewish women who couldn’t own anything; anything they “owned” belonged to the man. Legally, Roman women were the property of men but in a much more open way. Roman women could have business and make money for themselves and own jobs. So for Romans, there were no gender barriers and women weren’t trying to compete with men, unlike extreme feminism today.

Roman women also had the power to vote. Women weren’t an outcast in Roman setting, the poor were. No one cared if you were a woman or not; no stigma whatsoever against women in general.

Greek Culture

For the Greeks, they made gods out of women and placed women above men. You’d notice that the epistles Paul gave instructions for correcting or restricting women was in those written to the Greeks. For example, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11 that the man is the head of the woman (vs 3), women were created for men (vs 9) and women should cover their hair before praying (vs 13, 6). Why? Corinth was a Greek city with a Greek goddess as the main god of the city.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2 that women shouldn’t wear braids or expensive clothes (vs 9), not teach or exercise any authority over a man (vs 12) and must be silent. Why? Timothy was in Ephesus, a Greek city with a multi-breasted female goddess as the god of the city, the goddess of fertility, Artemis aka Diana. That also explains why Paul said women will be saved through childbirth (vs 15). He wasn’t referring to salvation.

The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?”

Acts 19:35 NIV

It was the culture of Greek women to travel to Ephesus during pregnancy so that the goddess would save them from death during pregnancy. Greek women were afraid to become Christians and leave Diana’s covering, thus Paul said if a woman walks uprightly and loves God, they will be saved throughout the childbirth process (vs 15).

In Greek mythology, women are more powerful than men. Their reasons/beliefs were; a woman was created before a man otherwise how could the second human being have been born? Their second reason/belief was that, because a man’s sex drive is typically higher than a woman’s, a woman always has something that a man wants but a man doesn’t always have something that a woman wants. Thus, Greeks usually put women in charge of everything because they believed that they were created first. That’s why Paul wrote this order to them;

But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
1 Corinthians 11:3 NIV

Now that you have a summarised view of how the Bible setting looked like, take your Bible and search for all the verses that “undermine” women and see how enlightening it becomes. Especially, the gospels, one would beautifully see how Jesus broke all the rules concerning women, one by one. Also, you can do further studies on the various cultures in the various settings to further enrich your experience and understanding.

I love you ❤

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