The Biblical Woman


Part 1 (of a 6-part series) taken from 'Gender - The Missing Link' Pastor Alan Hewitt


(This will be a 6-part series that will deal primarily with the issue of women, their role in church life, their role in ministry and their role alongside men.  In the words of the great Baptist preacher Tony Campolo, he said that the issue of women in church is a ‘hot potato’.)



Let us start at the beginning.  Genesis 1:26  ‘Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them  rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground”, so God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him – male and female – He created them, God blessed them and said to them “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it, rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves on the ground”  Then God said “I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it, they will be yours for food, and to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground, everything that has the breath of life in it I give every green plant for food” and it was so.  God saw all that He had made and it was very good, and there was evening and there was morning – the sixth day.’


I want to paint a picture of the prejudice and cultural mindsets about women that have been around for years and years in the next few paragraphs, and will expound more on the cultural, social and traditional (and even wrong Biblical) views on women later in the series.


In April, 1989 in the magazine ‘Christianity Today’ a Lutheran pastor faced formal heresy charges because he dared to even ask the church to consider whether its’ attitude to women today and their role could be looked at.  He said “My aim is to strip away the sexism of the church and get back to the root of how Jesus and the Apostles treated women.  In my opinion, we are wearing cultural blinders, I want to ask the Church, "do the beliefs we hold reflect the Biblical message? and can we divorce ourselves from the centuries of conditioning, set our blinders aside for a minute and look at how our Lord considered the role of women?” and for asking just those questions this pastor was summoned to his denominational headquarters and faced formal heresy charges.


Again, in 1988 at a pastors conference, the daughter of Billy Graham, Ann Lotz, was asked to speak, but when she stood up to address the pastors conference, many of the men there turned their chairs around to face the other way so they wouldn’t have to look at a woman speaker.  So then, there is a lot of strong opinion in the church on this CRITICAL subject.  Opinions are diverse and strongly held, so I accept the fact that there are people who will strongly disagree with what I am saying, but please read all 6 parts.


As a culture and in the church generally, a woman holds a ‘steriotypical’ role of that in the kitchen, the man’s subordinate and only capable of domestic tasks, or given a lesser role than a man.  I want to expose this thinking as un-Biblical in these 6 parts.  One thing I have discovered with the Bible, if you are already in a cultural mindset and have a starting ‘premise’, whatever that premise is, you can build an argument on that premise even with scripture, and all your arguments can be logical, but if your starting premise is wrong, no matter how logical your arguments are, your conclusions will also be wrong.  Many times the church have a logical argument on this subject but the basic premise is wrong.  I want to challenge that basic premise.


I believe that the bringing of this subject at this time is a Divine Appointment, and it is going to challenge bigotry and prejudice in the church.  I believe that the Lord wants to encourage and sponsor the greater releasing of women in the body of Christ to their full destiny in the purposes of God. The goal being not to bring men down, but to lift women up.

In spite of the wonderful redeeming power of the Cross, in our world today, even in Christian circles, women are still getting a raw deal.  In our world, women are still suffering in a way that God never intended.  Three quarters of all the people living in poverty are women.  Women are 50% of the population but only own 1% of the world’s wealth.  At one time, it was illegal in the USA for a woman to own property. Until 1920, women weren’t even allowed to vote in the USA, and they weren’t even allowed to vote until a campaign had gone on for 70 years just to let women have the right to a political vote.  Even in the U.K. that is true.  The forerunners of those who fought for the right for women to vote were strong Evangelical Christians trying to change social patterns, in order to raise the level of women.  The New York Times published that there had been 100 million little girls killed, mainly from India and China, simply because of their gender (in our World!).  The emphasis was on boys being special, girls not being important.  If a boy got ill, money would be spent on medicine to get him better, if it was a girl who got ill, she was left to die, as she was considered worthless. (In our World!, the world that Christ died to redeem!)


Famous quotes showing the ingrained prejudice regarding women:

A prominent author Kurt Vonnegut said this ‘Educating a woman is like pouring honey over a fine Swiss watch, it stops working’

Former Vice President of the USA – Spiro Agnew said this ‘Three things have been difficult to tame, the oceans, fools and women, we may soon be able to tame the ocean, fools and women will take a little longer’

Former President of Poland Lech Walessa said this ‘Women are to have fun with, in politics I prefer not to see a woman, instead of getting all worked up, they should stay as they are, like flowers’

Strong Jewish Orthodox men every morning before opening their eyes, prayed this ‘Blessed be He who did not make me a Gentile, Blessed be He who did not make me a woman, Blessed be He who did not make me an uneducated man or a slave’.  So the first thing a Jewish wife heard her husband say each morning was ‘thank God I am not a woman, thank God I am not a slave, thank God I am not a Gentile!’.  Imagine that, a slave could one day be set free, a Gentile could covert, but a woman could never change being a woman.


In bringing these teachings, I would ask we all be loving, not be contentious, ask the Holy Spirit to lead us all into further truth, let us humble ourselves with this truth, that the Bible says ‘Now we know in part (that means that we are all learning on a Spiritual journey with further revelation).  Let us also remember that the final analysis is not culture, society or trends that are the ground of our authority, it is the Word of God (which is the proper understanding and interpretation of the Word of God).  I believe strongly that much of what the church believes about women has come from culture and not scripture.


So the 6 series titles will be

Part 1            Back to the Garden (where it all started).

Part 2            Restoring Eve as well as Adam.

Part 3.           Putting women in their place. (There are no subordinates in Christ)

Parts 4 & 5    A ‘black and white issue??’ – this includes the ‘head covering’ passages, ‘women keep silent’ passage, ‘women should not teach’ passage, and difficult passages on submission, headship and authority.

Part 6            Discriminate or liberate? (what the world is really waiting for)



Part 1 – Back to the Garden (where it all started)

Genesis is the book of beginnings and the seedbed of every Biblical truth. Every truth you find in the Bible is found in seed form in the first book of the Bible – Genesis (which means the ‘book of beginnings’).  To properly understand the role of men and women, we have to go back to the beginning, to the first time it is referred to or mentioned. We always have to look back at God’s original design and intention.  In the first 3 chapters of Genesis we see 4 things very clearly.

  1. Men and women have a shared origin(Gen 1:26) Woman was not an afterthought, she was in the ‘them’.  Adam means ‘humankind’.  Genesis chapter 2 amplifies it and explains the original creation in chapter 1 in more detail.  Everything we see in Genesis is described as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, until we come to Chapter 2 verse 18, where God says ‘it is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper for him’.  This is VERY IMPORTANT, how you understand this here now is CRITICAL.  So then, God does not feel sorry for man where woman is made as an afterthought, not at all.  Making woman was ALWAYS God’s intention (Gen 1:26).  When God talked about making humankind, He talked about making it in His own image. The image of God could not be reflected in maleness alone.  It required femininity, as God is neither male nor female, not one nor the other, He is Spirit, but His image, His character image, those values and moral qualities that we know are in God, He brought and put into mankind, not just in maleness, not just in femaleness, but in BOTH.   It is interesting that throughout the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for the divine Spirit ‘Ruach’ is in feminine gender. Yet we do not talk about the Spirit of God being inferior to Father God, even though the Spirit of God is always put there ‘Ruach’ in terms of feminine gender. So as Christians we believe the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 3 persons one God – but total equality in the Godhead.  In the same way, humanity is maleness and femaleness, not one greater than the other, but both together, just as Trinity reflects God, so maleness and femaleness reflects the image of God in humanity.  The point being, maleness indicated incompleteness, and humanity’s completeness necessitated the creation of woman, otherwise the image of God would not have been there.  Man cannot by himself reflect the image of God. Woman is 50% of the image of God in humanity.  Man is 50% of the image of God.  Together they have 100% of God’s image in human creation. Notice how shared their origin was, we know that Adam was made from the dirt.  When God came to make woman, he didn’t go to pick up some more dirt.  Had He done that, Her origin would have been different to that of Adam.  So God made woman from man, she was made of exactly the same stuff that Adam was made from, the same substance but a separate expression of the very same creation.  Chapter 2:21, talks about God taking a ‘rib’.   Let’s put the sacred cow to rest here. The word ‘rib’ in the Hebrew occurs 42 times in the Old Testament, and this is the only place where the English translators have rendered it ‘rib’.  In the NIV Bible you will notice that there is a footnote talking about the reference that the Hebrew word literally means ‘side’.   God took man’s ‘side’ and from man’s side, God made another ‘side’ from the side of the man, he then made woman.  The Bible says, that she was made to be a ‘helper’ for the man. So often, that little phrase has sowed a doctrine in the minds of people, particularly men, who say ‘ah you see we are the image of God, we needed some help so that is why the woman came to be our servant, our helper the one who would look after us, as we are the image of God, then this female bit would come along and do the washing, cooking, ironing, and all that kind of stuff.’ The problem is this – that word ‘helper’ will not allow that kind of thought. The Hebrew word ‘Ezer’ means (and you guys may need to sit down for this one) –rather than expressing something inferior, that word is used 128 times in the Old Testament and 72% of the times it is used of a ‘superior’. E.g. 16 times that word ‘helper’ is used of God. How many talk of God being your ‘little helper’? Psalm 121 ‘I will look to the Hills from whence cometh my ‘help’’, this is the same word as used regarding the woman. When we talk about God being our helper, we never look at Him as being inferior, or weaker, we look upon Him ‘our helper’ as being, much, much greater than us.  So then, God is not a subordinate or an inferior being or a ‘supporter’.  God brought the animals to Adam to name the animals.  When He brings the woman to the man, Adam says in verse 22 ‘This is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman.’  (Because she was just like Adam, taken out of man.) The woman was not called ‘Eve’ until after the fall. The Hebrew here for ‘man’ is ‘ish’ in the Hebrew.  The word woman is ‘isher’, as she was taken out of ‘ish’ (the same as him).  All of us are fearfully and wonderfully made, we have a shared origin, made of the same stuff.  The argument that man was made before woman, therefore he is the head is a bad argument, as goats and pigs were made before man!! So don’t argue that as it doesn’t work!
  2. Men and women have a shared destinyLook very carefully at the job description given to man and woman (not Adam and Eve, as she was only named Eve after the fall) but to ‘ish’ and ‘isher’.  Please see the roles that God gave jointly and equally to them.  There was no hierarchy whatsoever.  Genesis 1:28 ‘God blessed them and said to them ‘subdue it, rule’.  So the rule, the leadership, the dominion, the government of the world was given to both of them equally.  Two people with shared dominion.  They were given leadership together over every living thing, over all the sea, over all of creation, and it had nothing to do with gender.  Man and woman joined with God in ruling the world.  Genesis 1 & 2 shows nothing that shows even a hint of disparity of nature or rank between a man and a woman.  They are both equally entitled by God to act as his vice regency for the rulership of the earth, the lack of any restriction or of any qualification in their participation in the task, implied roles of equality for man and woman.   Nowhere does it state that Adam was designed to rule over his wife.  Any thought of supremacy of one over the other, either way, is alien to this passage, neither is Eve told to submit to the man.  The marriage role before the fall was an equal role, side by side, serving the purposes of God with equal Kingdom authority.
  3. Men and women had a shared tragedy. The fall is recorded in Genesis 3.  We all have such different pictures of the fall.  Eve was not alone when the serpent came, Adam was at her side when the serpent came. During all that temptation the man never said a word! Genesis 3:1 ‘The serpent said to the woman, did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden.’ In our English, the word ‘you’ can mean singular or plural.  In the Hebrew there are 2 different words, one is singular and one is plural.  The one here in the Hebrew is the ‘you’ that is plural.   So the serpent was speaking to them both in the garden.  When the serpent replied he also used the plural ‘you’ in the Hebrew.  So for sure, he was talking to them both. ‘She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it’ without doubt confirms he was there.   What is interesting is that the serpent recognised that the greatest resistance would come from the woman and not the man, and that is why he spoke to the woman.  Both participated in the eating, and both were guilty in the transgression.  Many of the distorted views that have crept into the church have come from Babylonian Talmudic writings, or from Pagan Greek Philosophers, so then people have then read the Bible from a bias of un-Biblical thinking and have interpreted the Bible based from pagan and distorted images of women.  They often paint a worse picture of the woman than the man, but if you read it correctly, you will see that the man actually comes off far worse than the woman.  At least Eve put up a bit of a fight. At least she did say a few things to the snake, about what God had said.  Adam never said a word!!  Also notice this, that the woman’s knowledge about what God had said not to eat in the garden, had come second hand from Adam.  Adam’s knowledge came first hand, as God told Adam, when Eve was not yet made.  So Adam heard directly from God the commandment about not eating the fruit, Eve only knew second hand from Adam.  Yet, Eve with only second-hand knowledge information argued a little resistance, then afterwards when they had both eaten, and God turns up and says ‘what have you done?’, who comes out best?  The woman did because she said ‘the serpent deceived me’ and yet the man said ‘the woman YOU put here with me’.  So the woman said ‘I was deceived’ and the man blamed the woman and God!  So then disobedience is worse than deception.  Adam just disobeyed, but Eve was deceived.   The New Testament puts greatest responsibility on what happened on Adam, clearly many times for what happened in the garden. Consequences of the fall  When God speaks following the fall, notice that man and woman are not cursed.  Only two things are cursed, the serpent and the ground, (verse 14 & 17).  This signifies the spiritual world and the natural world.  What was spoken to man and woman were the CONSEQUENCES of their sin.  When it says ‘shall, shall, shall’ that is not imperative but is future tense, so God is not commanding something He wills, He is predicting something that is going to happen as a consequence of their big error.  When it talks about ‘your husband will rule over you’, a lot of people think that it is the Will of God to be under the authority and domain of man, NOT SO, God says that would be the result of the fall.  He is stating consequences only, and it is not His Will.  God’s Words here are prescriptive and not descriptive.  Not once in the whole of the Old Testament will you ever find anywhere, where a woman is told to be in servitude to her husband, NOT ONCE!  Within six generations there was polygamy (Genesis 4:19 ‘and Lamech married two women’).  The whole original idea of man and woman being in equality ruling the world with God in a marriage of equality is gone, and women are taking the lesser inferior role and they are suffering as a result of this whole thing called sin.   Women have been grossly exploited ever since.  The only thing that has ever brought release to women from the exploitation of the male dominion is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  4. The war on women:  Genesis 3:15: 'I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your offspring and hers, he will crush your head and you will strike his heel’.  If you see the word for offspring, the actual word is ‘seed’. The seed of the woman.  The enmity was between the serpent and the woman because of the seed that would come from the woman one day to bruise the serpent’s head.  Lauren Cunningham, the founder of YWAM said this ‘When we look at the issue of women and their role, we are entering humankind’s most ancient battlefield, the war of the serpent against women.'  Who has suffered most from the fall?  The tragedy is this, so many want to restrict the redemptive flow that comes from the cross of Calvary and somehow give women a lesser salvation than that given to men.  Both were given the same hope, BOTH!  When it comes to the deliverance of mankind, who was going to take the major role, the woman was going to be more involved than the man.  It was not the seed of the man, but the seed of the WOMAN would bruise the serpent’s head. Until 1872 it was unknown that women ever contributed anything to the birth of a foetus, until then right up until 1872, because it was always considered sacrilege to ever cut open a human body. It was then discovered that women had 'seed'.  In Bible times, it was always considered that in the male semen, the semen actually contained miniature people, and that the woman was just the soil in which to place the seed.  We now know the male and the female  contribute 23 chromosomes each to make up a foetus. Yet the Bible talks about the 'Seed of the Woman'!  It took nearly 4,000 years for people to actually believe that a woman has any seed. All the human DNA of Jesus Christ came from the woman!  This is a big issue, and is as big as the issue of slavery.  For years Christians supported slavery from the Bible, years and years Christians supported the idea from the Bible that white people are better than black people.  Black people were not allowed into the white churches.  The Scripture ‘slaves obey your masters’ was the only scripture that substantiated such a view. People had to fight and fight and fight to break the back of slavery, I believe that over the last 2,000 years, the church has lacked something, because women have been implied, inferred, sometimes treated lesser, than men. Throughout history, homosexuals, women and slaves were always considered less than human.  (Apparently there was a vote a couple of hundred years ago to decide by a group of Bishops if women were human or not!  I believe we won by a very narrow margin!)  2/3rds of all Bible believing Christians in our world are women. So 2/3rds of the Body of Christ are not totally released and remain shackled.      In the next Part we will talk about a man who treated women differently and His name is Jesus Christ.