I recently received another great article in a newsletter from Christians for Biblical Equality, posted in its entirety here, underscoring the inherent equality of women portrayed in the New Testament.
The article considers whether Paul’s words of instruction about submission, keeping silent, authority, etc., which are always held up as irrefutable evidence of male authority, are in fact compatible with Jesus’ words and actions. We believe in the absolute harmony of Scripture, so there can be no contradiction between the two. And certainly we would not hold Paul’s words as higher than Christ’s example… correct?
Let’s look at some of Jesus’ actions involving women. Jesus did not ask the woman at the well to go home and learn quietly and in submission. In fact, my favorite part of that story is that he sends the disciples out to get dinner, then sits alone with her (a completely unacceptable situation) to discuss theology. She then evangelizes her entire town, literally bringing them to Christ.
Jesus did not ask the woman caught in adultery to submit. I hardly know what else to say about it – we so clearly miss one of the most profound points of the story. He reminds her accusers – men – of their own sinfulness, placing the woman on equal footing with them and restoring her dignity.
Jesus accepts and answers the challenges of women, rather than requiring submission. The Canaanite woman is one example, arguing for crumbs from the table for the healing of her daughter. She receives it. Another is Martha in Luke 11 saying, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” That’s a straight-up accusation. Yet Jesus responds to her faith.
As the writer states, “If Paul’s words are not situational, but universal as many claim, they are in conflict with, or held up as a higher authority than Jesus’ words and actions.” For the sake of the harmony of Scripture, it seems far more likely that Paul’s teaching on this subject is situational and contextual.