Many pressing issues of today’s world, such as gender roles, equality, sexuality, and more are defended or attacked using Biblical references. The question of interpretation presents itself through Biblical readings as individuals contemplate between the literal words and the influences of society. Undoubtedly, if the Bible is read word for word, there is apparent sexism within the text. However, if Jesus serves as the main criterion, it is evident that the Bible does not stand to diminish anyone or anything, but rather it is a way to preach and spread love. Though Jesus definitely took a unique approach to spreading the word, he stayed true to his messages and beliefs. Not everyone agreed with his preaching, however Jesus made his message accessible and fair to all as even those considered “odd” would not be shut out. Ultimately, the Bible must be seen as a whole, not individual propositions, that will bring the message of love and salvation.
From a non-theological standpoint, the following line from 1st Timothy 2:11-13 appears quite sexist and dominant. It reads “Let the woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” In saying “full submission,” Paul claims that all women are to submit to the power of men in the Church. In the following line, he denies females the ability to act as leaders. God created man and woman as separate entities to complement one another and their responsibilities. In this sense, they both play equally important roles and the creation does not make either gender superior. God intends for there to be gender equality, but this notion is ultimately demeaned by this line in Timothy. And truthfully, why would women want to get involved in a lifestyle that does not support them and allow them to thrive? Because the Bible was written and interpreted by men for centuries, there is an innate understanding that women are viewed as property and subordinates to men. This line explicitly diminishes women to solely be aids to their husbands and never express their own beliefs.
While some of the literal text appears demeaning to females, Jesus’s priorities and teachings were pretty explicit as he worked to decrease the unfair aspects of the law. In fact, he used the Torah, Wisdom, and Escnation to teach the law. Though Jesus would present the literal teaching, it is truthfully impossible to simply read the Bible and follow the guidelines; hence, the reason that interpretation is so important. Biblical guidelines cannot be applied to everyone so Jesus tries to reach each follower individually to help them achieve salvation. Jesus shamed the law in a unique way by portraying the law as unjust and not explicit enough to comprehend. So, he tried to spread the message of love. Luke 6:27-28 writes “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” His progressive idea of loving your enemies puzzled his followers. I, too, grapple with this concept a lot as I personally find it extremely difficult to love someone who I find so immoral or rude. But Jesus ultimately teaches that love is necessary for all. In fact, he can more easily forgive those who prove their faith through love.
The Gospel reveals the level of love and respect that Jesus has for women. Despite the fact that all apostles are male, Jesus acknowledges the many followers that were female and shows his appreciation towards them. Particularly in Luke, Jesus emphasizes the value of women and their loyalty. He devotes attention to the women by constantly remarking parables that involve females, such as experiences healing them. In Luke 21, he praises the poor woman who graciously gives two coins. He demonstrates that this small gift is even greater than a bigger gift because she so willingly sacrificed what little she had. He also elevates women when a “sinful woman” arrives at Simon’s house and he tries to belittle her- Jesus openly rejects Simon’s actions and praises the sinful woman. Jesus also shows here that it takes very little effort to be a kind human being and treat others with respect. (Luke 7:36-50) Knowing that Jesus is in support of women helps diminish the inequality presented.
The Bible must be read in entirety not just as propositional statements, otherwise the clear examples of slavery, sexuality, and injustice for women would be explicity seen. This is why Jesus aims to share his teachings with the idea of salvation in mind. In “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis,” Mark A. Noll claims “The moral argument from Scripture on the subject appeals to the common conscience of all mankind, and at every step enlists the common sense of humanity in its behalf”’ (The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, Pg. 44). Both perspectives, abolitionists and pro-slavery individuals, used the Bible to justify their views. Elizabeth Johnson, feminist author of “She Who Is,” argues that the Bible is not sexist, the sexism is purely interpretation related. She writes “Feminist interpretation makes piercingly clear that although egalitarian impulses are discernible in the Bible, the texts as such were written mostly by men and for men in a patricharical cultural context and reflect this fact.” (76) Here, it is apparent that while there are tendencies that lean towards masculinity, interpretation and presentation by the teacher ultimately determine how one views the Bible. People often just select parts of the Bible that support their argument and disregard any lines that suggest the opposite. As a whole, Jesus ultimately demonstrates that interpretation is essential when reading a text that is, in some cases, inherently sexist; he works to show that his message is to promote love and help others reach salvation.