Summarized, the practice of most Christian churches of denying to women full and equal participation in leadership roles comes ironically not from the teachings of Christ, but from two non-Christian sources, both of which were and remain hostile toward Him. Those sources are discussed below.
From the Book of Genesis (Genesis 3): The Fall of Humanity (the introduction of sin into the world): Because in Genesis Eve was declared by the Church Fathers to be the author of sin (even though Adam made the same free-will choice), all women have since been blamed as Eve’s “daughters” and therefore inherently carry the shame of Eve’s transgression, generally minimizing Adam’s free-will transgression and even declaring Adam entirely innocent of all transgression. No female person, with the one exception of the Virgin Mary, could escape their inherent guilt for all of the sin in the world.
Verse 16: God told Eve that He would multiply her pain in childbearing. Nowhere does God extend such pain as punishment to any women beyond Eve. Pain that is always associated with childbearing is not multiplied beyond the normal degree of pain with childbirth. The stereotyping of all women everywhere for all time is not justified from the singular context of a particular situation -- and it certainly does not pass the test of love and compassion taught by Christ, one example being when He refuted the proposal that children having illness or disability was the result of their own or their parents' sins.(See John 9:1-3 below)
"...(A)nd he (your husband) shall rule over you." -- God said that her (Eve's) husband would rule over her, not that all husbands should rule over their wives everywhere and through all time. What God said was a descriptive statement regarding only Adam and Eve, not a prescriptive global mandate -- simply declaring how it would be, as opposed to how it should be. The relationship described was how it was going to be in a sinful life environment, not how it should be in a sinless environment. Certainly we should strive toward the way relationships should be in a sinless environment, rather than strive toward that which is characteristic of sinfulness.
Re: the inheritance of sin from a parent [e.g. all women inheriting the blame and shame for Eve’s (and Adam’s) sin], Christ taught:
“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.'" (John 9:1-3)
Twisting an injunction intended for a particular person or group in a particular time and/or place is also at work in such examples as Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, in which he invokes silence on women at Corinth in particular.
“The Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” (I Cor. 14:34)
The talking he referred to was within the context of disruption. Because women in general had less access to instruction in the scriptures, they were more inclined to verbally ask questions during the preaching or teaching; but that caused disruption of the service, so they should ask their questions at home, since that would cause less disruption in the church. Also, having had more religious instruction, their husbands could answer their questions then. His injunction was against disruption of the sermon, so they should wait until they were at home in order to maintain order in the church service, not a demand for all women to be silent everywhere and for all time. (In the annotated Bibliography; see Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis and What Paul Really Said About Women by John Temple Bristow.)
From Plato's dualistic "polar opposites" Theory of Forms with its "polar opposites" view of people and things came the belief that women are "naturally" inferior to men in every way. Specifically, his theory associated males with the spirit and females with the body (carnal). Since the spirit and the body were viewed as direct opposites, with the spirit superior to the body, all women were believed to be inferior is all ways. Some examples are:
1) Men have honor; so women, being completely opposite, have shame.
2) Men have leadership ability; so women, being completely opposite, should be ruled.
3) Men are superior intellectually; so women, being completely opposite, are naturally low in intelligence.
4) Men are superior in self-control; so women, being completely opposite, have a tendency to be morally loose. (This view is the basis for blaming women for seducing men when men commit illicit sex acts, such as rape or using a prostitute.)
5) Men are associated with spirit; so women, being completely opposite, are associated with the carnal.
6) "You are quite right, he replied, in maintaining the general inferiority of the female sex...." (http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/plato/republic.pdf)
7) Etc., etc., etc.
Because the Judaism of Jesus’s time was situated within Greco-Roman culture, specifically under the rule of the Roman Empire, Christianity inherited the anti-woman beliefs of both cultures, completely missing the teachings of Christ (as found in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that contradicted them—in various forms, even until today. The chief infusers of those two non-Christian anti-woman beliefs into Christianity after the Ascension of Christ were highly learned, highly respected Christian “great teachers,” known commonly as the Church Fathers.
During the time of the early Church, the Christian Church was one and undivided, although there were two main places associated with church administration: Constantinople (now Istanbul) in what is now Turkey, which was associated mainly with the Eastern branch of the Church, and Rome, which was associated mainly with the Western branch of the Church. Some of the Church Fathers were associated more with the Eastern branch of the Church, while some others were associated more with the Western branch. In any event, they shared and brought into Christianity the same non-Christian anti-woman beliefs listed above. The strength of their influence cannot be overstated, especially in a time when the Church Fathers were highly academically learned, while so few people in society were literate, especially women who were not from aristocratic families. The dualistic notions of (inherent) superior “male nature” and inferior “female nature” are abundant in patristic (of the Church Fathers) literature.
Each generation of the highly influential Church Fathers taught these beliefs to the succeeding generations of Church leaders, which will be evident in the chronological presentation of their teachings below. Unfortunately many women have blindly internalized (accepted) these misogynous teachings as well, thus "colluding in their own demise". This kind of phenomenon is well documented and is within the psychological realm of the Stockholm Syndrome in which the captured or oppressed person, from trauma, forms a sympathetic bond with the person or persons who have abducted, abused or otherwise oppressed them. It is often a survival mechanism, psychologically or even physically.
First, from the Talmud: “Out of respect to the congregation, a woman should not herself read in the law. It is a shame for a woman to let her voice be heard among men. The voice of a woman is filthy nakedness.”
Secondly, from Ecclesiasticus [apocryphal book, also known as the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira or the Wisdom of Sirach (not Jesus Christ)]: “No wickedness comes near the wickedness of a woman…Sin began with a woman and thanks to her all must die.” (This assertion negates God-given free will and eternal life brought by Jesus Christ.)
He was one of the first to contribute towards the construction of the mythology of Eve, the first woman (and every woman is Eve!), created inferior and subject to man and misled by the devil, and he warned the Church against being deceived by his heresy. (Ephesians ch. 7, Trallians, ch. 10)
(Paraphrased): When God removed a rib from Adam to create Eve, He thus purged males from all softness and weakness.
"Because man’s beard is 'older than Eve,' it betokens his superior nature over that of women." (Here the two beliefs are connected.)
“The very consciousness of their (women’s, female) nature must invoke feelings of shame.” (Pedagogues II, 33, 2)
"For what is hairy is by nature drier and warmer than what is bare; therefore, the male is hairier and more warm blooded than the female, the uncastrated than the castrated, the mature than the immature".
“Nor are women to be deprived of bodily exercise. But they are not to be encouraged to engage is wrestling or running, but are to exercise themselves in spinning, and weaving, and superintending the cooking if necessary. And they are, with their own hand, to fetch from the store what we require. And it is no disgrace for them to apply themselves to the mill. Nor is it a reproach to a wife—housekeeper and helpmeet—to occupy herself in cooking, so that it may be palatable to her husband. And if she shake up the couch, reach drink to her husband when thirsty, set food on the table as neatly as possible, and so give herself exercise tending to sound health, the Instructor will approve of a woman like this, who ‘stretches forth her arms to useful tasks, rests her hands on the distaff, opens her hand to the pool, and extends her wrist to the beggar.’” (Pedgogues III)
"Nor are the women to smear their faces with the ensnaring devices of wily cunning... The Instructor [Christ] orders them to go forth 'in becoming apparel, and adorn themselves with shamefacedness and sobriety, subject to their own husbands.'"
“So perilous a face, then, ought to be shaded, which has cast stumbling stones even so far as heaven: that, when standing in the presence of God, at whose bar it stands accused of the driving of the angels from their (native) confines, it may blush before the other angels as well; and may repress that former evil liberty of its head,-(a liberty) now to be exhibited not even before human eyes. But even if they were females already contaminated whom those angels had desired, so much the more ‘on account of the angels’ would it have been the duty of virgins to be veiled, as it would have been the more possible for virgins to have been the cause of the angels' sinning.” (On the Veiling of Virgins, chap. 7)
“Much less may the Christian put the service of idolatry on his own head-nay, I might have said, upon Christ, since Christ is the Head of the Christian man-(for his head) is as free as even Christ is, under no obligation to wear a covering, not to say a band. But even the head which is bound to have the veil, I mean woman's, as already taken possession of by this very thing, is not open also to a crown. She has the burden of her own humility to bear. If she ought not to appear with her head uncovered on account of the angels, much more with a crown on it will she offend those (elders) who perhaps are then wearing crowns above. For what is a crown on the head of a woman, but beauty made seductive, but mark of utter wantonness,-a notable casting away of modesty, a setting temptation on fire?” (Concerning a Crown, chap. 14)
(Addressing women): “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 the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil wasn’t valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. Because of your desert, that is, death, even the Son of God had to die. And you still think of putting adornments over the skins of animals that cover you? (On the Apparel of Women I.2)
“If there existed upon earth a faith in proportion to the reward that faith will receive in heaven, no one of you, my beloved sisters, from the time when you came to know the living God and recognized your own state, that is, the condition of being a woman, would have desired a too attractive garb, and much less anything that seemed too ostentatious. I think, rather that you would have dressed in mourning garments and even neglected your exterior, acting the part of mourning and repentant Eve in order to expiate more fully by all sorts of penitential garb that which woman derives from Eve—the ignominy of original sin and the odium (hatred) of being the cause of this fall of the human race. ‘In sorrow and anxiety you will bring forth, O woman, and you are subject to your husband, and he is your master.’ Do you not believe that you are each an Eve?” (On the Apparel of Women I.2)
"In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God's sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil's gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force the attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God.: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die... Woman, you ar the gate to hell."
"Woman is a temple built over a sewer."
“God does not stoop to look at what is feminine.”
“It is not proper to a woman to speak in church, however admirable or holy it may be, merely because it comes from female lips.”
“Men should not sit and listen to a woman…even if she says admirable things, that is of little consequence, since they came from the mouth of a woman.”
The "Didascalia Apostolorum", a collection of church laws from mid-third century North Syria, laid down rules regarding the participation of women in Church, and effectively took women out of any meaningful role, aside from the subsidiary roles prescribed for them as widows and deaconesses at the service of other women. It was only one of the first of many decrees that took Church ministry away from women.
“It is neither right nor necessary that women should be teachers, and especially concerning the name of Christ and the redemption of His passion. For you have not been appointed to this, o women, and especially widows, that you should teach, but that you should pray and entreat the Lord God. For if it were required that women should teach, our Master Himself would have commanded these (the holy women of the Gospel) to teach with us. But let a widow know that she is the altar of God; and let her sit ever at home, and not stray and run about among the houses of the faithful to receive. For the altar of God never strays about anywhere, but is fixed in one place (ch. 14).”
“The female is more imperfect than the male. The first reason is that she is colder. If, among animals, the warmer ones are more active, it follows that the colder ones are imperfect.”
“Woman is the instrument which the devil uses to get possession of our souls.”
“One man among a thousand may be pure; a woman, never.”
“Woman is the fountain of the arm of the devil, her voice is the hissing of the serpent.”
“The devil seeks to vomit out his disorder through women.”
“It is imperative that women be silent in church; because they are gullible, deficient and slight in intelligence.”
“For the female sex is easily misled, weak, and without much sense.”
“Every heresy is a wicked woman.”
“Fierce is the dragon and cunning the asp; but woman has the malice of both.”
"(All) women are naturally 'ostentatious and self-indulgent'.”
“Who could enumerate the special worries of the wife? I pass over the ordinary factors known to all, the discomfort of pregnancy, the risk of childbirth, the toil of educating the child…. According to the divine plan, the wife does not govern herself, but has her place of refuge in the one who has power over her through marriage. If she is separated from him (her husband) even briefly, it is as if she has been deprived of her head.”
“As long as a woman is for birth and children she is different from man as body is from soul. But when she wishes to serve Christ more than the world, then she will cease to be a woman, and will be called man.” (Commentary on Ephesians, III ch. 5)
"Woman is the root of all evil...It must be bad to [sexually] touch a woman." (Note: according to I Timothy 6:10, the love of money is the root of all evil.)
“(Woman is) The gate of the devil, the road of iniquity."
“You have with you one who was once your partner in the flesh but is now your partner in the spirit; once your wife but now your sister; once a woman but now a man; once an inferior but now an equal. Under the same yoke as you she hastens toward the same heavenly kingdom.” (Letter 71. To Lucinius, § 3.) [Lucinius was a wealthy Spaniard who had made a vow of continence (no sex) with his wife Theodora.]
"And that the lot of a woman might not seem a hard one, [because of God] reducing her to the condition of a slave to her husband., the Apostle recalls the ancient law and goes back to the first example: that Adam was first made, then the women out fo his rib; and that the Devil could not seduce Adam, but did seduce Eve; and that after displeasing God she was immediately subjected to the man, and began to turn to her husband; and he points out that she who was once tied with the bonds of marriage and was reduced to the condition of Eve, might blot out the old transgression by the procreation" (Against Jovinianus, Book 1, §27)."
If it is good for a man not to touch a woman, then it is bad for him to touch one, for bad, and bad only, is the opposite of good.
“The whole species of females is somewhat slow of understanding.”
Didymus the Blind points out that no biblical writings are attributed to a woman. Rightly, he says, for according to ‘right doctrine’ women may not have authority over men and thus may not write books under their own name. (On the Trinity 3 41.3.)
“Women must cover their heads because they are not the image of God. They must do this as a sign of their subjection to authority and because sin came into the world through them. Their heads must be covered in church in order to honor the bishop. In like manner they have no authority to speak because the bishop is the embodiment of Christ. They must thus act before the bishop as before Christ, the judge, since the bishop is the representative of the Lord. Because of original sin they must show themselves submissive. How can anyone maintain that woman is the likeness of God when she is demonstrably subject to the dominion of man and has no kind of authority? For she can neither teach nor be a witness in a court nor exercise citizenship nor be a judge-then certainly not exercise dominion.” (On 1 Corinthians 14, 34.)
“There are in the world a great many situations that weaken the conscientiousness of the soul. First and foremost of these is dealings with women. In his (the priest’s) concern for the male sex, the superior may not forget the females, who need greater care precisely because of their ready inclination to sin. In this situation the evil enemy can find many ways to creep in secretly. For the eye of woman touches and disturbs our soul, and not only the eye of the unbridled woman, but that of the decent one as well.” (On the Priesthood, VI, ch. 8)
St. Paul, the “teacher of the oikoumene knew very well the stupidity of female nature.”
“It does not profit a man to marry. For what is 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?"
(All) Women are “fickle, superficial, lightheaded ….”
“The whole of her (all people who are female) bodily beauty is nothing less than phlem, blood, bile, rheum, and the fluid of digested food.... If you consider what is stored up behind those lovely eyes, the angle of the nose, the mouth and cheeks you will agree that the well-proportioned body is merely a white sepulcher.”
“Of all wild beasts the most dangerous is woman.”
Paraphrased: I recommend that, because of their inherent limited intellectual capacity, (all) women should be restricted to unimportant undemanding domestic roles.
"And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home." Thus, "not only, as it seems, are they not allowed to speak," saith he, "at random, but not even to ask any question in the church. Now if they ought not to ask questions, much more is their speaking at pleasure contrary to law. And what may be the cause of his setting them under so great subjection? Because the woman is in some sort a weaker being and easily carried away and light minded. Here you see why he set over them their husbands as teachers, for the benefit of both. For so he both rendered the women orderly, and the husbands he made anxious, as having to deliver to their wives very exactly what they heard.” (Homily 37, Ver. 35)
“The woman [=Eve] taught once, and ruined all. On this account therefore he saith, let her not teach. But what is it to other women, that she suffered this? It certainly concerns them; for the sex is weak and fickle, and he is speaking of the sex collectively. For he says not Eve, but 'the woman', which is the common name of the whole sex, not her proper name. Was then the whole sex included in the transgression for her fault? As he said of Adam, 'After the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come' (Rom. v. 14); so here the female sex transgressed, and not the male.” (Homily 9) (Adam did not???)
“Shall not women then be saved? Yes, by means of children. For it is not of Eve that he says, 'If they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.' What faith? What charity? What holiness with sobriety? It is as if he had said, 'Ye women, be not cast down, because your sex has incurred blame. God has granted you another opportunity of salvation, by the bringing up of children, so that you are saved, not only by yourselves, but by others.' See how many questions are involved in this matter. 'The woman,' he says, 'being deceived was in the transgression. What woman? Eve. Shall she then be saved by child-bearing? He does not say that, but, the race of women shall be saved. Was not it then involved in transgression? Yes, it was, still Eve transgressed, but the whole sex shall be saved, notwithstanding, 'by childbearing'. And why not by their own personal virtue? For has she excluded others from this salvation? And what will be the case with virgins, with the barren, with widows who have lost their husbands, before they had children? Will they perish? Is there no hope for them? Yet virgins are held in the highest estimation. What then does he mean to say?” (Homily 9)
“Some interpret his meaning thus. As what happened to the first woman occasioned the subjection of the whole sex, (for since Eve was formed second and made subject, he says, let the rest of the sex be in subjection,) so because she transgressed, the rest of the sex are also in transgression. But this is not fair reasoning; for at the creation all was the gift of God, but in this case, it is the consequence of the woman's sin. But this is the amount of what he says. As all men died through one, because that one sinned, so the whole female race transgressed, because the woman was in the transgression. Let her not however grieve. God hath given her no small consolation, that of childbearing. And if it be said that this is of nature, so is that also of nature; for not only that which is of nature has been granted, but also the bringing up of children. 'If they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety'; that is, if after childbearing, they keep them in charity and purity. By these means they will have no small reward on their account, because they have trained up wrestlers for the service of Christ. By holiness he means good life, modesty, and sobriety.” (Homily 9)
“The man and woman do have one form, one distinctive character, one likeness. Then why is the man said to be in the ‘image of God’ and woman not? Because what Paul says about the image of God does not pertain to form. The ‘image’ has rather to do with authority, and this only the man has; the woman has it no longer. For he is subjected to no one, while she is subjected to him; as God said, ‘Your inclination shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.’” (Discourse 2 on Genesis, Patrologia Graeca 54.589)
“God maintained the order of each sex by dividing the business of human life into two parts and assigned the more necessary and beneficial aspects to the man and the less important, inferior matters to the woman. God’s plan was extremely desirable for us, on the one hand because of our pressing needs and on the other, so that a woman would not rebel against her husband due to the inferiority of her service.” (Homily: “The Kind of Women Who Ought to be Taken as Wives,” Patrologia Graeca 51.230)
“Adam sinned not because he was blinded by desire, but merely by his wife’s persuasion. The woman taught once and for all, and upset everything. Therefore he says, ‘Let her not teach.’ Then does it mean something for the rest of womankind, that Eve suffered this judgment? It certainly does concern other women! For the female sex is weak and vain, and here this is said of the whole sex. For he does not say ‘Eve was deceived,’ but ‘the woman,’ which is the common name of the sex, not her particular name…. Did the whole female sex come into sin through her (Eve)? As he said concerning Adam, ‘In the likeness of Adam’s sin who is a type of him who is to come.’ Thus also here, the female sex sinned, not the male. What then? Do women not have salvation? Most certainly, he said. And how is that? Through having children. (Homily 9 on I Tim. 2:11-15 and Gen. 3:12-16, Patrologia Graeca 62.544)
“And these [the women] first see Jesus and the sex that was most condemned, thus first enjoys the sight of the blessings [Resurrection], this most shows its courage. And when the disciples had fled, these were present.” (Homily #88 on Matthew 27)
"Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders."
“Therefore, if I were to ask any good Christian who has a wife, and even though he may still be having children by her, whether he would like to have his wife in that kingdom; mindful in any case of the promises of God, and of that life where this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality; though at present hesitating from the greatness, or at least from a certain degree of love, he would reply with execration (condemnation) that he is strongly averse to it. Were I to ask him again, whether he would like his wife to live with him there, after the resurrection, when she had undergone that angelic change which is promised to the saints, he would reply that he desired this as strongly as he reprobated the other. Thus a good Christian is found in one and the same woman to love the creature of God, whom he desires to be transformed and renewed; but to hate the corruptible and mortal conjugal connection and sexual intercourse: i.e. to love her in what is characteristic of a human being, to hate what belongs to her as a wife.” (On the Sermon on the Mount I, 41)
“I don’t see what sort of woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes the purpose of procreation. If woman was not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be? To till the earth together? If help were needed for that, man would have been a better help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude. How much more pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and a woman cohabitate?” (De genesi ad litteram, 9, 5-9)
“I consider that nothing so casts down the manly mind from its heights as the fondling of women, and those bodily contacts which belong to the married state.” (Soliloquy I 10)
“What is the difference if it is in a wife or a mother; it is still Eve the temptress we must be aware of in any woman….I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”
“Woman was evil from the beginnings, a gate of death, a disciple of the servant, the devil’s accomplice, a fount of deception, a dogstart to godly labours, rust corrupting the saints; whose perilous face hath overgrown such as had already become almost angels. Lo, woman is the head of sin, a weapon of the devil, expulsion from paradise, mother of guilt, corruption of the ancient law.”
"Woman was merely man's helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God."
"It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater.... This is the natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in power." (Questions on the Heptateuch, Book I, § 153)
"... the woman together with her own husband is image of God, so that the whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not the image of God; but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman too is joined with him in one."
"Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, then she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are joined together into one." - (On the Trinity, Book 12 7.10)
"Woman was merely man's helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God."
“The whole species of females is somewhat slow of understanding.”
Every female born is “an unsound instrument, a weak vessel, a shattered pot.”
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