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The Role of Women in Religion

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The Role of Women in Religion

The role of women in religious scripture dictates an inferior position in society. Beginning with the creation of Adam and then Eve, as his helpmate. Her purpose was that Adam would not be lonely. This origin provides the ground work for inequality of genders on the basis of religious scripture. The roles prescribed determined that women should be in a subordinate position to man. The female role and relationship with God is defined by the various books of the Old and New Testaments, the reported actions of Jesus Christ, and finally the Qur'an.

Initially, Old Testament describes women as the corrupter of man. However, through interpreting the action of Jesus Christ, we see that he holds women in equal roles as men, to include mention of female apostles. The New Testament does not promote equality but does mention the acts of Jesus. Finally, the Qur'an places women in a subservient role allowing men to keep their under control, by any means. Interpretations of the Gods word under the disguise of organized religion are the product of the gender discrimination of the time and continue to paint women as lesser creatures in the eyes of God.

The books of the Old Testament, and variations, are recognized by the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths. Each paint women as the temptress responsible for the mistakes of men. Women were the cause of the first punishment given to mankind. Eve persuaded Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, from the tree of knowledge. For this act, inspired by woman, mankind was forever punished and expelled from paradise.

There are many examples of woman's negative influence in the Old Testament. In Genesis 19:30-36, Lot's two daughters made their father drunk with wine on two successive nights. Each daughter committed incest with her father, and became pregnant.8 This is illogical, if Lot was so drunk he probably could not have performed physically and it occurred over two separate nights. He could have been unwitting the first night but not the second. Again in Judges 16, Delilah seduced Sampson in order to find out the secret of his great strength. This ultimately led to Samson's death.8 1 Kings 11 describes how Solomon's many foreign wives and concubines convinced him to worship other gods and build Pagan temples. This led to his downfall.8 The moral to these stories seem to be that women are responsible for the mistakes and men are easily corruptible by women. One would assume this is telling men to beware of women and their influence.

It is possible the deceitful ways of women were brought about by the treatment women typically received in scripture and society. One example of disregard was again with Lot and his daughters. In Genesis 19, The men of Sodom gathered around Lot's house, and asked that he bring his two guests out so that the men can "know" them. To "know" is interpreted as a desire rape the visitors. Lot offers his two virgin daughters to the angry mob instead.8 For this deed, Lot is regarded as an honorable man and was saved when the city was destroyed. A similar story occurs in Judges 19:16-30, some men in the city wanted to "know" a visiting Levite. The owner of the house offered his virgin daughter and the concubine of the Levite so that they could "do to them whatever you wish." The man sent his concubine outside to the gang, who proceeded to serially rape her. She died of the attacks. The Levite only learned of her death when he was leaving the house in the morning and stumbled across her body. The woman was clearly considered expendable and of little value.8


The story of Sarah and Abraham seems to hit all the negative female themes but also gives Sarah more power than is typically held during the time. In the story, Sarah could not conceive, a woman's sole purpose of the day. She suggested that Abraham take the Egyptian slave woman, Hagar, as his wife. With Hagar, he had a child named Ishmael. Much later, Sarah did conceive a child and told Abraham to send Hagar and his eldest son, Ishmael away. She had used her influence on Abraham to encourage he take a wife and her jealousy forced him to send them away. So much influence, by a woman, of the time was uncommon. During the Second Temple period, women were not allowed to testify in court trials. They could not go out in public, or talk to strangers. When outside of their homes, they were to be doubly veiled. "They had become second-class Jews, excluded from the worship and teaching of God, with status scarcely above that of slaves." 5

Through the actions of Jesus Christ, there seemed to be a break from the gender roles society had prescribed and more emphasis on equality between men and women. Christ overthrew many centuries of Jewish law and custom. He consistently treated women and men as equals and, in doing so, violated numerous Old Testament regulations. He refused to follow the behavioral rules established by the three main Jewish religious groups of the day: the Essences, Pharisees and Sadducees.7 "The actions of Jesus of Nazareth towards women were therefore revolutionary." 5 There is, however, very little emphasis placed on these actions in the current versions of the New Testament Bible. The social structure and implications of gender equality in time when the Bible was written are the likely cause for the misinterpretation in the New Testament.

5 Metzger, B.M. & Coogan, M.D. "The Oxford Companion to the Bible". Oxford University Press. New York, NY. (1993). P. 806 to 818.

Women were involved in primary roles in the first Christian churches. One example is when, in Romans 16:7, Paul refers to a male apostle, Andronicus and a female apostle, Lunia, as "outstanding among the apostles" (NIV) The Amplified Bible translates this passage as "They are men held in high esteem among the apostles." The Revised Standard Version shows it as "they are men of note among the apostles." The reference to them both being men does not appear in the original Greek text. The word "men" was simply inserted by the translators.9 Many translations, including the Amplified Bible, Rheims New Testament, New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version simply picked the letter "s" out of thin air. They converted the original "Junia" (a woman's name) into "Junias" (a man's name).Junia was first converted into a man only in the "13th century, when Aegidius of Rome (1245-1316 CE) referred to both Andronicus and Junia as "honorable



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