The Role of Women in the Bible: Inferior or Complimentary


Question: In respect to the role of women according to the Bible, are women portrayed as inferior or complimentary to their male counterparts?

 The Role of Women in the Bible: Inferior or Complimentary

An unknown author once said, “A man wears the pants in a relationship, but the woman tells the man which pair to put on”.  A man can only be his best when he has a woman lifting him up to reach the top.  The New Testament of the Bible has verses that show how this concept has been around since Jesus spread his word of God.  However, an argument can be made that what appears to be a supportive role of the women in the Bible, could actually be more accurately described as an inferior role. On the other hand, support does not have to mean inferior.  Being supportive is just as important as being in charge.  Without support, often times people won’t succeed.  Support systems are the driving force or motivation behind success, therefore there is a strong argument that it is much like being a leader.  Many women in the Bible are able to take leadership roles in regards to their homes and teaching to young women.  However, there was a definite hierarchy which had women placed below men.   I will show that both views are represented in the Bible by analyzing 1 Corinthians, Matthew and Luke.

Some passages in the Bible clearly sound as if the woman is inferior to man, whether it be in marriage or otherwise. 1 Corinthians 11: 3-16 opens with “3- 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”.   The word “head” can be interpreted in two different ways.  It can mean to be in a place of authority over someone else or it could mean that you have surpassed others, but are not necessarily superior to them.  According to Bart Ehrman, it is evident that Paul believes there is a definite difference between men and women.  Paul said it was okay for women to participate openly in church, just as men are, however they must do so as women.  Therefore they should worship as nature intended them to be, with long hair and a veil over their head, rather than like a man who has short hair.  If women go against nature, then they are going against God.  During this era, social norms said women were subordinate to men, and men subordinate to Christ, and Christ subordinate to God.

In a bit of a different role, women seemed to be very important to Jesus in a supportive role, rather than an inferior one.  In Matthew 27: 55-56, ” Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee”. Matthew 27: 55-56 It is mentioned that there were several women present that Jesus considered to be close friends that traveled with Jesus as he spoke to people and spread the word of Christ.  This does not appear to show the women as being inferior, rather they are being treated just like any other follower and they compliment the men as they help spread the word.  In those situations they were there as a supportive role and not allowed to be in positions of leadership or authority, but they could show leadership in ministering to the Lord just like anybody else.  We see a similar pattern in the role of women in Luke 23 -24, where the women seemed to be important to Jesus in his most meaningful times.  These women followers were there for Jesus’ death and they were there for his resurrection.  Jesus also commended Mary for sitting at his feet while Martha cooked a meal.  The significance of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet is that this was what his disciples did when they would listen to him teach.  He treated her like a disciple.  It is evident here, that women played an important role in the Bible.  It was more of a supportive role, but not necessarily an inferior role.

The Biblical Role of Women

This link is a video that explains the role of women throughout the Bible.  It gives several examples of the fact that women were very important in the church and that Jesus had a great respect for women.  It explains the significance of the role women played in the Bible and shows many examples of Jesus interacting with women in a cordial, pleasant way.

In conclusion, there will always be room to debate the stories in the Bible because the stories can be hard to verify.  The New Testament makes it clear that women cannot be in positions of leadership or authority over men in the church, but they are allowed to be in leadership roles over younger women, elder women, and children.  However, they are instrumental in complimenting the roles their husbands or other men play in the church.  For women, their duty to Christ comes from their duty to men.  They can lead some people and they can worship in the church and also provide ministry and services to others, within the guidelines of the church.