Did God Create Women to Be Inferior? A Biblical Discussion

For centuries, the church and biblical commentators have defined women as the inferior gender. From Eve's creation from Adam's rib to women told to remain silent in church, the Bible has been used to justify the mistreatment of women. The church perpetuated the inferior view of women throughout history and is still believed by many people today. However, is this really what the Bible teaches? Or are we reading into it our own biases and cultural norms? This article explores the question of whether or not God created women to be inferior.

How Were Women Created?

It is a common belief that Eve was formed from Adam's rib, but a lot can be lost in translation. The Hebrew word used to describe what was removed from Adam in Genesis 2:21 is tsela. According to Strong's Concordance, the word tsela means rib or the literal side of a body. Throughout the old testaments, the word tsela is used 41 times, and only translates as a rib to describe the creation of Eve; every other occurrence translates as one side.

With these definitions in mind, there are two scenarios to consider:

    1. Eve was created by one of Adam's ribs.


    2. Eve was created by one side of Adam.

There is no clarity on why or what influenced translators to interpret tsela as rib in this scenario, but one can assume that it is misused. Therefore, Eve was formed by Adam's side, making her his other or equal half. 

When Did Women Become Inferior in the Bible?

The fall of man occurred when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God outlined several consequences to Adam, Eve, and the serpent that tricked Eve. Additionally, Adam and Eve no longer had access to the garden of Eden, which is where they had a relationship with God.

Eve was given several curses as a result of her disobedience.

  • Painful Childbirth
  • Subordination to her husband.

These consequences indicate that God created men and women with equal standing within the family. A hierarchy between men and women was never part of God's original plan but a consequence of the fall of man.

Why Do Some Churches Continue to Preach Women's Submission?

Throughout history, the church has used several scriptures to teach that women should be subordinate within the church.

  • Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 1 Cor 14:34-35 KJV
  • Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. 1 Tim 2:11-15 KJV

The Apostle Paul is the author of all of these verses. It may seem as though Paul had strict convictions regarding women's roles at face value. However, several things are ignored when these scriptures are used to justify women being in submission.

The New Testament books written by the Apostle Paul are letters written to a church to address specific issues within that area. If Paul truly believed that women should keep silent in the church and should not have authority over men, his message would be consistent for all churches in all his letters. However, there are several areas in scripture where Paul acknowledges women and their role in ministry.

The following are verses are areas where Paul has acknowledged prominent women in ministry.

  1. Paul acknowledges Junia as being a fellow apostle in Romans 16:7.
  2. Paul acknowledges Phebe as the deaconess for the church of Cencherea in Romans 16:1 (The scripture translates as a servant but the original Greek uses the term diakonos which means deacon or deaconess). She is the only woman identified as a deacon in the New Testament.
  3. Paul acknowledges Pricilla as a co-ministry leader with Aquilla (her husband) in 1 Corinthians 16:19.
  4. Paul acknowledges Lois and Eunice (Timothy's grandmother and mother) in laying the foundation for Timothy's faith in 2 Timothy 1:5 (Eunice as a hebrew woman was responsible for teaching Timothy about the Word of God). 

The church also used several scriptures to teach that women should be subordinate within marriage and family.

  • Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 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. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Eph 5:22-24 KJV
  • But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 1 Cor 11:3 KJV

Many churches believe that the term head relates to hierarchy. However, Christian egalitarians believe that the head is used figuratively to mean source. The idea is that maintaining life within the body is not possible without a physical head.

Therefore the head is the source that allows life to remain. So just as God is the source of Christ, Christ is the source of man, and man is the source of the woman (remember that Eve was created from one of Adam's sides).

It is reasonable to believe that Paul did not have the pharisees' view of hierarchy (such as being masters and rabbis) because Jesus taught his disciples and followers to serve rather than to rule in Matthew 23:1-12. 

Regarding the wives submitting to their husbands, one important verse brings context to Paul's message. Ephesians 5:21 says, "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." The actual greek text does not repeat the word submit but is a continuation of verse 21. A more accurate translation would be "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 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."

The Ephesian text actually gives instructions on how husbands and wives should mutually submit to each other. Ephesians 5:23-28 continues with instructions for husbands and their role to love through sacrifice, which is the husband's form of submission.

So, it is reasonable to conclude that Paul did not place a hierarchy on genders within the church or family.

Does God See Women as Inferior to Men?

God's view on women is clearly outlined in the four gospels of Jesus Christ. Jesus' treatment of women broke every cultural norm of his time. He was the first to call women to be disciples and teach/preach to them.

You can see one example in Luke 10: 38-42. It was uncommon for women to learn from rabbis. Women were limited to domestic labor during the time of Jesus. So when Martha complained to Jesus about Mary sitting at his feet rather than assisting with household chores, his response was unusual. He encouraged Mary's behavior and wanted Martha to consider doing the same. Here, it is clear that Jesus wanted women to learn the word of God just as much as men.

It was also uncommon for women and men to speak to each other privately and publicly unless they were from the same household. However, there are several occasions in the Bible where Jesus spoke with women, including the woman of Samaria (John 4:5-42), Mary and Martha (Luke 10: 38-42), Mary Magdalene, and other women (Luke 8:1-3). There are even more examples than the ones previously named.

Jesus' treatment of women and men as equals points back to the beginning in the garden of Eden. Hierarchy and unequal gender roles were never part of God's original plan. Jesus came to be the seed of the woman that would crush the serpent's head (Genesis 3:15). His character and treatment of men and women show that he came to reverse every curse over humanity, including the curse on women during the fall of man.

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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. Galatians 3:27-28

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