Misogyny in the Bible

[Editorial note: if you have any issues with what I’ve written, please be sure to read my Caveats page.]

The Bible is brimming with misogynistic passages, a dazzling extravaganza of ignorance and ignobility toward womankind, breathtaking in its presumptuousness.

It starts in the story of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2, the Bible says:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

The Lord God had formed all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He had made all of them out of the ground. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give them. And the name the man gave each living creature became its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, all the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals.”

“But Adam didn’t find a helper that was just right for him. So the Lord God caused him to fall into a deep sleep. While the man was sleeping, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs. Then the Lord God closed the opening in the man’s side. Then the Lord God made a woman. He made her from the rib he had taken out of the man. And the Lord God brought her to the man.”

The man said, “Her bones have come from my bones. Her body has come from my body. She will be named ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of a man.”

Genesis 2:18-23

So, in this passage we can see:

(1) Man was made first;

(2) Woman was not part of God’s original plan. God only concluded that Adam shouldn’t be alone as an afterthought. Even then, God tried first to pair Adam up with wild animals (!) before it occurred to Him to try making a woman. Women aren’t even an afterthought of God’s — they’re an afterthought-of-an-afterthought;

(3) Woman was specifically made for man, to be his helper;

(4) Woman was made from man and is part man, but the reverse is not true.

In Genesis 3, the story continues:

“The serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden’?”

“The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But God did say, ‘You must not eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. Do not even touch it. If you do, you will die.’ ”

“You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “God knows that when you eat fruit from that tree, you will know things you have never known before. Like God, you will be able to tell the difference between good and evil.”

“The woman saw that the tree’s fruit was good to eat and pleasing to look at. She also saw that it would make a person wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. And he ate it.”

Genesis 3:1-6

From this passage, we are supposed to infer:

(1 A) The serpent managed to lead Eve astray, when the serpent had not been able to lead Adam astray;

— and —

(1 B) Eve lead Adam astray, after the serpent could not.

And from these, we are supposed to conclude that Eve was childishly naive and foolish; easily manipulated; impulsive and indulgent; shady and untrustworthy; disloyal and disobedient; naturally inclined toward temptation, mischief, sin and evil. Instead of also reaching similar conclusions about Adam for his role, we’re supposed to interpret that Eve also had bewitching powers of seduction. Then, we’re to take it that Eve-as-wicked-temptress embodied the nature of all women.

Additionally —

(2 A) Eve was the first to disobey God;

— and —

(2 B) Eve is responsible for the downfall of humankind, and therefore literally everything bad in the entire world.

For this, God punishes Eve — and all women — in Genesis 3:16.

The Lord God said to the woman, “I will increase your pain when you give birth. You will be in great pain when you have children. You will long for your husband. And he will rule over you.”

Here we can see:

(1) The pain of childbirth is a punishment upon women from God;

— and —

(2) Men are to rule over women, by divine decree, since women can’t be trusted to behave themselves.

 


Some readers might object here, “What do you mean ‘supposed to infer’ and ‘supposed to conclude?’ How do you know? That’s not the way I interpret the story at all!” I know because the Bible repeatedly and explicitly tells us all of the above, along with giving explanations of how women must be muzzled and controlled, as the bad seeds that they are.

Here are a few examples.

In 1 Corinthians, it says:

“Men were created to be like God and to bring honor to God… Women were created to bring honor to men. It was the woman who was made from a man, and not the man who was made from a woman. He wasn’t created for her. She was created for him.”

1 Corinthians 11:7-9

In Ecclesiasticus, in Catholic versions of the Bible, we find the following:

“No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman, may a sinner’s lot be hers!”

— Ecclesiasticus 25:19

“Sin began with a woman, and thanks to her we all must die.”

— Ecclesiasticus 25:24

“If she will not do what you tell her, get rid of her.”

— Ecclesiasticus 25:26

In 1 Timothy, it says:

“I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”

1 Timothy 2:12-14

And so on, ad nauseam.

 


Beyond the Adam and Eve story and inferences, the Bible also has a variety of mean-spirited, pointless double standards against women. For examples:

“The price for a man from 20 to 60 years old is 50 shekels of silver… The price for a woman who is 20 to 60 years old is 30 shekels. The price for a man from 5 to 20 years old is 20 shekels. For a woman the price is 10 shekels. The price for a boy from one month to five years old is 5 shekels. For a girl, the price is 3 shekels. The price for a man who is 60 years old or older is 15 shekels. The price for a woman is 10 shekels.”

Leviticus 27:3-7

Not only does God literally put a price on people, He values women and girls about half to two-thirds as much as men and boys.

“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shouldn’t be set free in the same way as male slaves are set free.”

— Exodus 21:7

If it seems bad that Israelite men get to go free after six years, while Israelite women are enslaved for life: it’s actually even worse than it sounds. This passage is about selling daughters as sex slaves. (If you’d like to read more about slavery in the Bible, click here.)

“If a woman conceives a child and gives birth to a son, she will be unclean for seven days—just as she is during her menstrual period… But if the woman gives birth to a daughter, she will be unclean for two weeks—just as she is during her menstrual period….”

Leviticus 12:2,5

Three in one! In one short paragraph, this tells us (1) Menstruation makes women unclean; (2) childbirth makes women unclean; and (3) giving birth to a daughter is twice as unclean as giving birth to a son.

 


Aside from the Eve related slurs, and the double standards, the Bible is peppered throughout with hundreds of anti-women gibes, slanders, assumptions, recriminations, assaults, injunctions, and themes. For examples:

“It is a disgrace to be a father of an undisciplined son, and the birth of a daughter is a loss.”

Ecclesiasticus 22:3

There you have it. According to the ironically apellated “Wisdom Literature” in Catholic versions of the Bible, the birth of a girl is a loss, plain and simple.

“They called out to Lot and asked, “Where are the men who came to visit you tonight? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”

“Lot went outside to them, shut the door behind him, and said, “I urge you, my brothers, don’t do such a wicked thing. Look here, I have two daughters who are virgins. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them whatever you wish, only don’t do anything to these men, because they’re here under my protection.”

Genesis 19:5-8

Apparently, an entire city gang-raping Lot’s daughters would not be “such a wicked thing” — certainly preferable to letting the town get their hands on men. Also apparently, the status of being a daughter does not warrant protection, as merely visiting does if a stranger happens to be a man. And, of course, Lot’s daughters were his property to offer for rape if he wished.

By the way, note that Lot and his family were saved by God after Lot offered his virgin daughters up for gang rape by all the men in the city, because Lot was the only righteous man in Sodom. Still perfectly righteous … after offering his daughters for all the men in Sodom to gang-rape.

“…a seductive woman is a trap more bitter than death. Her passion is a snare, and her soft hands are chains. Those who are pleasing to God will escape her, but sinners will be caught in her snare.”

“Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman!”

Ecclesiastes 7:26,28

More pearls of wisdom. There are no virtuous women. Not one.

“If a man encounters a young woman, a virgin who is not engaged, takes hold of her and rapes her, and they are discovered, the man who raped her must give the young woman’s father 50 silver shekels, and she must become his wife because he violated her. He cannot divorce her as long as he lives.”

Deuteronomy 22:28-29

In other words — You break it, you buy it!

“How can anyone born of a woman be pure?”

Job 25:4

This simple rhetorical question is a classic commentary on how women are intrinsically tainted and contaminate everyone.

“Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.”

Jeremiah 8:10

This is one of several occasions in the Bible where Yahweh punishes men by giving their wives to other men.

“I will bring all the nations together to fight against Jerusalem. They will capture the city and destroy the houses. The women will be raped, and half of the people will be taken away as prisoners.”

Zechariah 14:2

This is one of several instances in the Bible where Yahweh exercises his omnipotence to ensure that all the women in a large population get raped.

“So now kill every boy and kill every woman who has had sexual intercourse, but keep alive for yourselves all the girls and all the women who are virgins.”

Numbers 31:17-18

War booty — in both senses of the word.

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

— 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35

Like the 1 Timothy quote above about teaching and usurping authority, here’s another one of several instances of the Bible telling women to shut up.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and He is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

Ephesians 5:22-24

In case it wasn’t clear the first time, husbands rule over their wives.

“[The elders] commanded the Benjamites, “Go and hide in the vineyards. Watch, and then when the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, come out from the vineyards and have every man grab a wife for himself from among the daughters of Shiloh. Then go to the land of Benjamin. When their fathers or their brothers come to us to complain, we will say to them, ‘Be favorable to them for our sakes, because we did not take for each man a wife in the battle…’ ”

So the Benjamites did this. They carried away wives for each man from among the dancers that they caught.”

Judges 21:20-23

Gay marriages may not be biblical, but kidnap-and-rape marriages are.

Even the passages above pale next to the … “story” … the Bible tells in Judges 19. Click on that link and read it for yourself. I can’t even….

 


Of course, the many misogynistic passages in the Bible have been reflected in the thinking and writing of almost all of the most influential Judeo-Christian theologians throughout history. Here are some examples:

“…the attitude of man is informed by reason, that of woman by sensuality.”

— Philo of Alexandria, De Oificio Mundi

 

“The woman is inferior to the man in every way. Let her accordingly be obedient, not for her humiliation, but that she may be directed; for authority has been given by God to man!”

— Josephus, Contra Apionem

 

“Men should not sit and listen to a woman… even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little consequence, since they came from the mouth of a woman.”

— Origen

 

“Every woman should be overwhelmed with shame at the thought that she is a woman.”

— St. Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus

 

“Fierce is the dragon and cunning the asp; But woman have the malice of both.”

— St. Greogory of Nazianzus

 

“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 that [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. On account of your desert—that is , death—even the Son of God had to die.”

— St. Tertullian

 

“Remember that God took the rib out of Adam’s body, not a part of his soul, to make her. She was not made in the image of God, like man.”

— St. Ambrose

 

“[Satan turned to] the inferior of the human pair … supposing that the man would not be so easily gullible, and could not be trapped by a false move on his own part, but only if he yielded to another’s mistake.”

— and —

“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother; it is still Eve the temptress that we must be aware of in any woman… I fail to see what use women can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”

— St. Augustine

 

“It does not profit a man to marry. For what is a woman but an enemy of friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a domestic danger, delectable mischief, a fault in nature, painted with beautiful colors?”

— Saint John Chrysostom

 

“Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex, while production of woman comes from defect in the active force.”

— and —

“The woman is subject to the man, on account of the weakness of her nature, both of mind and of body. Man is the beginning of woman and her end, just as God is the beginning and end of every creature. Woman is in subjection according to the law of nature, but a slave is not. Children ought to love their father more than their mother.”

— Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

“Woman is less qualified [than man] for moral behavior…  women are inconstant and curious. When a woman has relations with a man, she would like, as much as possible, to be lying with another man at the same time. Woman knows nothing about fidelity. …if you give her your trust, you will be disappointed. … For this reason prudent men share their plans and actions least of all with their wives. Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his… What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Woman is strictly speaking not cleverer but slyer (more cunning) than man. … in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good.”

— St. Albertus Magnus

 

“Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man, not rule and command him.”

— John Knox

 

“God created Adam lord of all living creatures, but Eve spoiled it all.”

— and —

“Women are ashamed to admit this, but Scripture and life reveal that only one woman in thousands has been endowed with the God-given aptitude to live in chastity and virginity. A woman is not fully the master of herself.”

— and —

“Woman must neither begin or complete anything without man: Where he is, there she must be, and bend before him as before a master, whom she shall fear and to whom she shall be subject and obedient.”

— Martin Luther

Imagine seeing your mother, wife, sister, or even newborn daughter this way. Imagine behaving so dysfunctionally toward half the people you meet, half the people in the world, for no other reason than their sex.

Unfortunately, the numerous misogynistic passages in the Bible continue to badly influence some religious people today, sometimes causing warped perceptions of women, abusive behavior, and harmful policies. This is especially true among the Christians who believe, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy3:16).


 

Christian apologists are quick to insist that the Bible is not misogynistic. Their two main arguments about this seem to be:

(1) “There are also passages in the Bible that show good women whom God loves, and passages that explicitly state women are equal in the eyes of God.”

Yes, there are. For example:

And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman.”

Galatians 3:27-28

The pro-women parts of the Bible are outnumbered easily more than 100-to-1 by the misogynistic parts, but there absolutely are a few parts that are egalitarian toward women, nonetheless. The problem is that the misogynistic passages still exist, still say what they say and mean what they mean — and people who take everything in the Bible as God’s message can’t easily ignore them.

(2) “You’re cherry-picking Bible quotes to twist God’s word.”

How many misogynistic passages must there be before they’re actually the Bible’s message on the topic, rather than twisted misinterpretations of God’s word based upon cherry-picking? A dozen? A hundred? A thousand? Because there are well over a thousand in the Bible. It’s not like some strange aberration that only surfaces a couple times. It’s prevalent from start to finish.

Banned from a Bible Forum

I was banned, recently, from the Bible forum I’ve been participating in for the last year. (I would’ve posted about this, sooner, but my website was down at the time.) I’m not really surprised that they banned me, more surprised that they took so long to do it. I came to the forum specifically on their invitation. Even then, I made clear from the start that I was not sympathetic to their point of view and would be expressing views they might find uncomfortable, if I stayed — and only chose to stay after they said they still wanted me there, regardless. However, they considered any religious criticism and any contrary opinion to their Christian beliefs and doctrine to be “trolling” or worse (I’ll discuss “worse” in a future post), no matter how honest the inquiry or relevant the critique, and no matter how gently worded.
Here’s what happened:

First, someone posted this.*

WHAT’S AN INFIDEL ?

The author, Rick Mathes, is a well-known leader in prison ministry. The man who walks with God always gets to his destination. If you have a pulse you have a purpose.
The Muslim religion is the fastest growing religion per capita in the United States, especially in the minority races.
Last month I attended my annual training session that’s required for maintaining my state prison security clearance. During the training session there was a presentation by three speakers representing the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Muslim faiths, who each explained their beliefs.
I was particularly interested in what the Islamic Imam had to say. The Muslim gave a great presentation of the basics of Islam, complete with a video.
After the presentations, time was provided for questions and answers. When it was my turn, I directed my question to the Muslim and asked:
‘Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand that most Imams and clerics of Islam have declared a holy jihad [Holy war] against the infidels of the world and, that by killing an infidel, (which is a command to all Muslims) they are assured of a place in heaven. If that’s the case, can you give me the definition of an infidel?’
There was no disagreement with my statements and, without hesitation, he replied, ” Nonbelievers”
I responded, ‘So, let me make sure I have this straight. All followers of Allah have been commanded to kill everyone who is not of your faith so they can have a place in heaven. Is that correct?’
The expression on his face changed from one of authority and command to that of a little boy who had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.’
He sheepishly replied, ‘Yes.’
I then stated, ‘Well, sir, I have a real problem trying to imagine The Pope commanding all Catholics to kill those of your faith or Dr. Stanley ordering all Protestants to do the same in order to guarantee them a place in heaven!’
The Muslim was speechless.
I continued, ‘I also have a problem with being your friend when you and your brother clerics are telling your followers to kill me! Let me ask you a question:
Would you rather have your Allah, who tells you to kill me in order for you to go to heaven, or my Jesus who tells me to love you because I am going to heaven and He wants you to be there with me?’
You could have heard a pin drop.
Needless to say, the organizers and/or promoters of the ‘Diversification’ training seminar were not happy with my way of dealing with the Islamic Imam, and exposing the truth about the Muslims’ beliefs.
In twenty years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the President.
I think everyone in the U.S. should be required to read this, but with the ACLU, there is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us sends it on! This is your chance to make a difference.
FOR CHRIST’S SAKE…SEND THIS ON
Please pray and send this on……please.

I was struck by the cognitive dissonance of this post, since the Bible has its own injunctions to kill nonbelievers, and many Christians take for granted that these commands were moral when they came from Yahweh in the Bible. So, I posted the following reply:

“I wonder what the author, Rick Mathes, would say about Bible passages such as Deuteronomy 13:6-11 (wherein God commands killing your family or friends if they entice you to worship other gods), or Deuteronomy 13:12-18 (wherein God commands the Israelites kill everyone in the entire town and destroy everything, if anyone therein is found to be worshipping other gods), or 2 Chronicles 15:12-13 (wherein Asa, and the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon make a covenant to kill nonbelievers), etc.”

A little while later, the moderator replied to me, “Always tell the truth,” and then banned me from the forum. Which is a funny thing for him to say, while banning me for telling the truth!
For the record, here’s Deuteronomy 13:6-11:

“Suppose someone secretly entices you—even your brother, your son or daughter, your beloved wife, or your closest friend—and says, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known. They might suggest that you worship the gods of peoples who live nearby or who come from the ends of the earth. But do not give in or listen. Have no pity, and do not spare or protect them. You must put them to death! Strike the first blow yourself, and then all the people must join in. Stone the guilty ones to death because they have tried to draw you away from the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of slavery. Then all Israel will hear about it and be afraid, and no one will act so wickedly again.” — New Living Testament translation

Here’s Deuteronomy 13:12-18:

“When you begin living in the towns the Lord your God is giving you, you may hear that scoundrels among you are leading their fellow citizens astray by saying, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods you have not known before. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find that the report is true and such a detestable act has been committed among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the open square and burn it. Burn the entire town as a burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the Lord will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a large nation, just as he swore to your ancestors. “The Lord your God will be merciful only if you listen to his voice and keep all his commands that I am giving you today, doing what pleases him.” — New Living Testament translation

And here’s 2 Chronicles 15:12-13:

“Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. They agreed that anyone who refused to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death—whether young or old, man or woman.” — New Living Testament translation

I did nothing here but make accurate references and give accurate descriptions of them, which were directly relevant. Which brings up the ultimate irony: Bible forum moderators and participants so offended by what their holy scripture actually says that they’ll ban someone for accurately referencing or quoting it.

 

 

*Yes, I know that what he posted came from a chain email, and probably never even happened. That’s beside the point.

Pakistani Bill to Ban Child Marriages Withdrawn for being Un-Islamic

There was a news item yesterday that a bill in the Pakistani legislature to ban child marriage has been withdrawn, because an advisory council — The Council of Islamic Ideology — declared the bill “un-Islamic,” not in compliance with Sharia law. The council maintains a stance that men should be able to marry girls as young as nine years old, “if signs of puberty are visible.” You can read more about the story here.

Seriously. Banning child marriages is “un-Islamic.” According to a council on Islamic ideology.

The founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad, married his wife, Aisha, when she was six years old and he was fifty years old, and had sex with her when she was nine years old and he was fifty-three. This is well documented by multiple contemporary sources† and widely accepted throughout the Islamic world. In context that Muhammad is commonly considered within Islam to have been picked by Allah because he was perfectly upright, it would follow that such child marriages must therefore be sanctioned. In this sense, there’s a strong argument that banning child marriages is indeed “un-Islamic.”

Just think about that for a moment. Many millions of people revere as morally perfect someone they know to have been an unabashed pedophile. And a sizable portion of them see that as divine warrant for pedophiliac marriages, which supports institutionalization of child rape and molestation.

Any historical, legal, or theological sanction of child marriage within Islam is not an acceptable defense for the continuation of the practice. Rather, it is a profound problem with Islam. Furthermore, the withdrawal of this bill due to the Council of Islamic Ideology’s declaration that the bill is “un-Islamic” shows once again that government and religion should be kept completely separate. And the entire situation exemplifies how religions often perpetuate ancient barbarism and misery, and retard the progress of civilization.

Utterly contemptible.

 

† To give an example from the many accounts of this in the Hadiths, here’s Sahih Bukhari 7:62:64

Narrated ‘Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death).