Christians for Biblical Equality


Are women more prone to (sin) error? Gender and ethical decision-making

Until the second half of the twentieth century, theologians were agreed that women are more prone to sin, error and deception than men, and this was considered a reason to bar them from teaching and leadership in the world as well as the church and the home. This was how the passage in 1 Timothy 2: 14 was interpreted, “And Adam was not deceived but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” which of course follows on from Paul saying “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man”

eg Chrysostom (347-407 “the sex is weak and fickle, collectively”.

Augustine (354-430): “Satan first tried his assault upon the woman, making his assault upon the weaker part of that human alliance, that he might gradually gain the whole,, and not supposing that the man would readily give ear to him, or be deceived”



This paper is an exploratory and unfolding journey. In it I attempt to look at different layers of religio-cultural beliefs, behaviour and meaning in relation to the status and well-being of women and girls in Nigeria. I do not intend for this to be a purely academic treatise although I refer often to academic writings in gender and development as well as religious literature. Instead I share personal observations, impressions and learning points gleaned from my work in gender and development research, Christian ministry to young people and activism. I reflect on the diverse and complex ways religion and indigenous tradition impinge on social justice for women and girls in Church and society in the Nigerian context. Many of these learning points and reflections are the result of my personal journey in search for answers as a woman of faith working in a secular development policy environment trying to understand why ‘the woman question’ persists largely unanswered and maybe even unanswerable. This unfolding journey is by no means a straightforward one.

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 most important text on the relationship of the sexes in the whole Bible: Genesis 1-3.

Kevin Giles

In discussing what the Bible teaches on men and women no text in the whole Bible is more important than Genesis chapters 1–3. Here God creates man and woman as the apex of his creative work and sets them in an idyllic world where everything is good. Tragically, however, the devil enters and both the man and the woman fall into sin and as a consequence are banished from the garden. All Christian theologians see this story as foundational to the whole Bible. It tells us that God made the world ‘good’, but the sin of man and woman destroyed their good relationship with God, each other and with the creation itself. It thus explains why a saviour and a ‘new creation’ are needed. The story is given in two forms. In Genesis chapter one in grand poetic language God creates everything in seven days with the apex of his creative work coming in the creation of man and woman who are said to be ‘made in God’s image and likeness’. Chapters 2-3 give a different account of the beginning, this time in picturesque narrative form with a number of scenes. In the so called ‘second creation story’, after the earth is created Adam appears first and then God provides for him water, vegetation, animals and a partner in woman.

‘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.