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 your 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *