Friday, October 17, 2008


II. Women throughout history
Today I'm teaching about women throughout history so that we can have better insight into the ideas that affect us today, either positively or negatively.
Objective: To show that some ideas about women are unfair and untrue, and to try to shed some light on where these ideas have come from.
A. The Garden of Eden
1. As we read in Gen.2, it was not good for man to be alone, so God made a help meet for him. This word for help meet in the Hebrew is "Ezer". When it is not referring to Eve, it appears 17 times in the Old Testament and refers to God. To me, that means that I am not necessarily beneath man, as his servant or slave, but that I am a much needed helper. That my husband depends on me as much as I depend on him.
2. Many people have used the happenings in the story of Adam and Eve to say that women are beneath men.
a. Adam was made first, therefore, he is dominant.
i. perhaps men are dominant, but this is a terrible reason to conclude that. Wouldn't then cows be dominant to man? And then fish to cows? The Bible is full of examples where the younger and the last exceed the first or older. This is not to say that the first is not always dominant, or that the last is always dominant. It is a person's personality and God's calling that makes a person a leader, not whether or not they came first.
b. Eve sinned first, therefore women are more easily led astray, and are the cause of sin in the world.
i. Eve was deceived, she was tricked and cheated. The Bible does not show that she directly heard God say not to eat of the fruit. Adam, however, heard the command straight from God's mouth. I've heard people say, Eve was just tricked, Adam sinned. It isn't good to say that one sinned MORE than the other. They both sinned. Not just Adam, not just Eve. God didn't let either of them off the hook.
ii. I've heard people say that the serpent tempted Eve because she was weaker. I've heard people argue that the serpent tempted Eve because she was stronger and needed the full force of the tempter, whereas Adam just needed his wife to tempt him. I think these are both a childish way to assume anything. The bottom line is, they both fell.
iii. What I get out of the story when I hear that Eve was led away and tempted is not that women are weaker or stronger than men, but that we need each other for moral support and to hold each other accountable. They provide each other with moral
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 9 Two are better than one,because they have a good return for their work:If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
c. God told Eve that her desire will be for her husband and he will rule over her.
i. This is, of course, true. Clear as day, scriptural quote.
ii. I believe that as believers redeemed from the curse by Jesus' payment on the cross, that He brought freedom and healing into all aspects of life, including relationships. I believe that woman can once again be the "Ezer" that God originally intended her to be, and that this would benefit and bring joy to man much, much more.

B. Jewish Culture
Despite examples of capable women in the Old Testament, Rabbis often devalued women in their teachings. A few Rabbis didn't, but most did.
1. One Rabbi taught, " a woman has more pleasure is one kab (measure) with lechery than in nine kabs with modesty."
2. Jesus ben Sirach said, "Do not look upon any one for beauty, and do not sit in the midst of women, for from the garments comes the moth, and from a woman comes a woman's wickedness. Better is the wickedness of 3 man than a woman who does good; and it is a woman who brings shame and disgrace."
4. One Rabbi said that "It is better to see the Torah burned than to hear it's words on the
lips of a woman."
5. One Rabbi said "If a man gives his daughter a knowledge of the Law, it is as if he taught her lechery."
6. From very early in history, women has had a bad reputation.

C. Athens
1. Socrates (A Greek philosopher)
a. Said that woman was halfway between a man and an animal.
b. Referred to women as the weaker sex.
c. Seemed at times to advocate women sharing the same duties as men, but said that men are far better at all things than women.
e. Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle, who taught Alexander the Great, who brought the whole Western world under his command and sought to instill Greek philosophy in the minds of all people.
2. Aristotle
a. Said, "The courage of a man is shown in commanding, of a woman in obeying."
b. He was the one who proposed the thought that man is to wife as soul is to body. He used this analogy to also define the roles of slaves and masters. In his analogy, the soul is to command the body and not be ruled by the body's impulses and desires. We see this analogy pop up all over the place. I believe, even in interpretations of scripture.
3. Zeno
a. founder of the Stoics
b. Objected to men using women as objects, but not out of respect for women. He objected because he said women distracted men from learning about philosophy.
c. He said sex should be only for procreation.
d. Epictetus, a stoic philosopher taught that women, from the age of 14, think of nothing and aim at nothing but lying with men.
e. Stoics taught that women were a distraction, and to be avoided.
4. Plutarch
a. He praised men who bestowed upon their wives he same worth and dignity that they showed to their horses.
b. He taught that women are to be faithful, but he praised husbands who were thoughtful enough to send their wives away before they engaged in orgies with other women.
c. He said a wives two great duties were to keep at home and be silent.
5. Double Standard in Greek thought
a. the classic period gave the idea that women are inferior, and to be used by men.
b. the Stoics have the idea that women are a distraction, temptation, and are to be avoided.
6. Women in Athens
a. wives were completely secluded, and could not appear in public.
b. Pericles said that it was best if a wife was never even spoken of.
c. Xenophon said a wife should be one who "might see as little, hear as little, and ask as little as possible."
d. Men in Athens had courtisans for their pleasure. Courtisans were the only ones who could learn philosophy. Men had temple prostitutes for their daily use, and wives to bear legitimate children.

D. Women in the Age of Paul
1. The farther from Athens, the freer the women.
2. Women were referred to as a husbands "comrad and cooperator." and could attend public affairs.
3. The Egyptians were much better to their women. Tombs have pictures of husbands and wives holding hands. Sometimes men would stay home while women went to the markets.
4. Even in Rome, however, baby girls were left to die of exposure. Women with no inheritance had to be prostitutes. The Roman word for prostitute is "meretrix" and translates, "she who earns." This suggests that prostitution was the only was for a woman to earn money.
5. Roman boys were taught by Greek tudors, especially the Stoics. One teacher, Lucretius, said that love should be eradicated as soon as the first signs of it are felt. And to do this by focusing on the faults of the woman and realizing that physically, all women are the same.

E. Hellenization
Hellenization refers to the process of influencing the world with Greek thought.
1. The Essenes were the authors of the dead sea scrolls. They, like the Stoics, believed that women were a hinderance. The "best" Essenes were celibate. They abhorred sexuality.
2. Philo
a. A Jewish scholar who gave formal sanction to the Hellenization of Jewish thought. He sought to harmonize the Old Testament with the teachings of the philosophers. He imposed Greek distain of women into scripture.
b. He taught Aristotle's analogy. He said that there is in the soul a male and a female element. And that the male assigns himself to God only, and the female "clings to all that is born and perishes; it stretches out its faculties like a hand to catch blindly at what comes in its way, and gives the clasp of friendship to the world of created things with all its numberless changes and transmutations, instead of to the divine order, the immutable, the blessed, the thrice happy.
c. He thought that when scripture said that man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, that it meant that man left God when he cleaved to a wife.
d. He agreed with the Essene ideal of celibacy, arguing alongside the Stoics that "a wife is a selfish creature...adept at beguiling the morals of her husband."
3. Josephus (A Jewsish historian one generation after Philo)
a. He wrote that the wife "is inferior to her husband in all things."
b. He didn't even think women should be allowed to give testimony in court on account of their levity and the boldness of their sex.
4. Christianity
a. The Gentiles and Jews that Paul converted brought with them their distain of women. I believe this greatly affects the way we read his words today.
b. Tertullian (160-230) was a leading defender of Christianity. He said to women "Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die." He was schooled in Stoic philosophy.
c. Saint Augustine regarded marriage as a "covenant with death." Both he and Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin) regarded celibacy more holy than marriage. He said, " What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman......I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children."
d. Thomas Aquinas did more than any other to harmonize scripture with Greek thought. He solidly infused the depreciation of women into Christian thought. He said, "As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence."
e. Even Martin Luther said, "If they become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there"
f. Even today, orthodox Jewish men, in their daily morning prayer recite "Blessed be God King of the universe that Thou has not made me a woman."; Another prayer found in many Jewish prayer books: "Praised be God that he has not created me a Gentile. Praised be God that he has not created me a woman. Praised be God that he has not created me an ignoramus.";
F. Ultimately, it is my personal belief that God, who is Love, would not say these things about his creation. That he wants us to be in submission to each other. I believe women are saved from this depreciation because of Jesus died for our sin. We are no longer identified as sinners, or "Eve's" in that sense. Yes, we need to respect and submit to our husbands. Being submitted to my husband gives me great joy, he absolutely has my respect. Yes, we should never "rule" over our husbands.

People have said some very childish, unfair, and hurtful things about women. I've seen many women that hate God because they think He hates women. Women have not been treated like the children of God that they really are. I don't want any woman to think that the ideas listed above are true of them: that they were made to die in childbirth, that men are better than them at everything, that they are sinful creatures, that they are halfway between a man and an animal, that they are a distraction or an object to use for pleasure.

Women are wonderful, helpful and a blessing from God. But we will get in to that later. :)