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Is the Bible Sexist?

7 October, 2008

An article by Bess Davies in the Times Online (London) yesterday calls this widely-held assumption into question.

A lot of people today assume the Bible paints women in general in a pretty negative light — women are at root seductresses, deceivers, the source of all evil and so on. This article from the Times — which is hardly a ‘religious right’ news organization — suggests otherwise:

Delilah is dangerous, Jezebel, wicked, and as for Eve… Whether they are temptresses, harlots or simply Old Testament chattels, women (it is often argued) get a raw deal in Scripture, with the odd saintly exception (the virgin Mary).

But new research into Biblical women shows that the majority receive positive or matter-of-fact write-ups. Words such as “blessed”, “righteous” “outstanding” and – of course – “beautiful” crop up in descriptions of 60 of the Bible’s 175 female characters, according to research from The Bible Society.

“Some people have the impression that the Bible is very negative about women,” says David Ashford, the Society’s Media and Development Officer.

Ashford’s research, based on analysing the words used to describe Biblical females, found that “there are four times as many saints as there are sinners,” and that “individual women are often described in the Bible in glowing terms.”


2 Kings 9:30-37

The article goes on to mention that there are only 13 women in the Bible portrayed in thoroughy negative terms — think Jezebel. And while many feminist scholars see the Bible as an instrument of male domination, other feminists see it as exactly the opposite: a collection of writings unique in the ancient world for its high view of women as women, and its ‘progressive’ social values.

There’s a lot that could be said on this theme. What I’d like to highlight is simply the fact that such articles exist, which is already significant. Whether or not someone agrees with or accepts what the Bible has to say, it’s significant that reading it as a whole and in context results in the opposite of the caricatures that are often presented. It’s difficult to seriously engage the Bible without having to take the Bible seriously.

In the end, however, I think the first person to leave a comment on the article (a man from Ireland) very nearly nailed the whole discussion on the head:

I never thought about it before but if you were to [do a] similar study on men in the Bible I wonder what you’d conclude — the narrative is filled with failed and evil men … does it follow that it is anti male … perhaps anti-human? No, it simply exposes evil to prove the need for grace!

One Comment
  1. 9 October, 2008 1:39 pm

    Wow Brannan..that is excellent and he did nail it….blessings

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