Christians for Biblical Equality

Jesus and Women

Kevin Giles

CBE paper 2010

Before we look at what Jesus said and did in regard to women, five introductory points need to be made.

First, let me stress, I am not setting Jesus and Paul in opposition.[1] What I am arguing is that as followers of Christ we should give a certain priority to Jesus’ teaching as both Paul and we are disciples of Christ and that we should understand and interpret Paul’s teaching in the light of the Gospels, not vice versa.[2] In seeking to work out what the New Testament says about the relationship of the sexes beginning with Jesus I take exactly the opposite path to my debating opponents, the hierarchical-complementarians. They start with 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and read the whole Bible through this lens. One difficult and exceptional comment in the Pauline corpus is set over everything else in the Bible. This is one text theology at its worst.

Now to Jesus

‘The Biblical ideal is the spiritual and social equality of the sexes’.

Whilst the Bible promotes men and women’s uniform saving by Christ and correspondence in value and status,[1] some sections of the church increasingly define orthodoxy by allegiance to a ‘complementarian’ position. This asserts that the Bible teaches that the sexes are equal in being but different in function; with men assuming leadership over women in the home and church. To paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm, complementarians contend that ‘all people are equal, just some are more equal than others’. This stance renders the spiritual and ontological equality of men and women meaningless by the significant disparity in their social roles. Accordingly this essay will seek to demonstrate the spiritual and social parity of men and women at Creation, its disruption by the Fall, and the eschaton of their equality as shown in Paul’s letters.[2]

The absence of hierarchy between men and woman is evident in Genesis 1-2. Contrary to the claims of complementarians, man’s pre-existence before woman does not indicate his pre-eminence.[3] If this were so, animals would have dominion over humans, an idea which is contradicted in Gen 1:28 which instructs both man and woman to ‘fill the earth and subdue it’. Unlike animals they are made in ‘the image’ of God (1:26), which suggests their capacity for a mutual, other-serving relationship like that within the Trinity.[4] As image-bearers, a level of rulership and dominion is designated by God to people; man and woman are to rule jointly over creation (Gen 1:26), thus, their spiritual equality corresponds to an equality in social roles. Importantly, God gives ‘every seed-bearing plant’ for their food (v 29); there is no suggestion here that Adam is to be the ‘bread-winner’. Adam’s work in the garden pre-Eve (3:15) is likewise not evidence for a responsibility over provision, as Eve is yet to be created.

The Biblical ideal is the spiritual and social equality of the sexes.


Scripture has at various times and places been read as promoting the spiritual and social equality of the sexes.  ‘Evangelical’ women of the 1800s found in scripture a foundation for their call for the suffrage of woman and greater security for women in terms of property and child custody rights.  The rise of scholarly feminist exegesis since the 1980s, however, has begun seriously to question whether the Bible has anything positive to contribute on the matter of equality of the sexes.  Instead of ‘allies’, Biblical writers like Luke and Paul have been seen as complicit in the subjugation of women.

Principles of narrative criticism may offer a canonically respectful way to revisit the idea that the Bible encourages spiritual and social equality of the sexes. As illustration of how such re-examination might proceed, this paper describes and applies some of these general principles to Luke-Acts and provides a detailed exegetical example from Acts 21:1-14, a passage which includes the ‘silence’ of Philip’s four prophetic daughters.


The recent Pulitzer Prize winning book, Half the Sky, suggests that ideas have profound consequences. The idea that females are less valuable than males has not only led to an indifference to their abuse and suffering worldwide, but gender prejudice has itself fueled the global abuse of girls and women. Yet there is a redemptive, irrepressible truth this book points to. It’s called the “Girl Effect.” What does this mean?

The “Girl Effect” is a phenomenon noted by relief organizations that when you educate a female, or invest in her business, she in turns shares the benefits with her family and wider community. Some organizations are now suggesting that the most powerful means of growing a community’s welfare is by investing in the lives of its females. Scripture tells us that woman was created to be a strong helper, or in Hebrew, ezer (Genesis 2:18). The “Girl Effect” noted at the creation of woman is a truth often overlooked.

Mimi Haddad

President CBE International

For several decades evangelicals have wrestled with the issue of gender roles, including marital submission. Thus, the
question arises: Do we really need another article on marital submission? An evaluation of the current evangelical literature
in fact reveals that very much and very little has been written.
In terms of sheer volume, hundreds of books and numerous ministries address the subject of marital submission; in that
way much has been written.2 But a closer inspection of the literature and a careful assessment of contemporary culture
reveal that very little has been written which addresses the parameters of marital submission in terms of the specific issues
that are increasingly confronting Christian women.

Read More... >>