The title should be enough, that should be the end of discussion. However, since we are prone to get stuck in patterns based on fragmented readings of scripture we have to go deeper than just this statement. We have gotten stuck on a handful of bible verses about submission and male dominance instead of letting the grand narrative and the foundational truths of the sacred text and of course the divine voice of unconditional love set us straight.

Let´s start from the beginning….

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

What in the world does this have to do with women and submission, you ask? I am glad you asked. Our worldview can often be shaped by our view of god. If our image of god is a male one then it becomes easy to fall into the trap of patriarchy and misogyny (although, one would think that at this day and age that still would not happen).

This verse has been posited as one of the first verses that contain an image of the trinity. We have god the consciousness, the thought, the idea of the universe. We have the spirit, gods creative power, hovering over the waters and then finally we have the word a fusion of the two, a thought spoken, made manifest and carried out by the profound power of spirit.

In eastern traditions the masculine is often depicted as consciousness, awareness, direction and purpose while feminine is shown to be life, power, creativity. All things are then created in the high voltage polarity between these two, equal but opposite forces. and it seems they are present i genesis too, if we can see god as equally male and female and earthlings (adama) as equal image bearers of different aspects of the divine, then I think we have come along way.

In genesis two it seems all goes down the drain as we read the familiar story of eve created from a rib and designated the role of helper. Our minds quickly form the image of a secretary, making coffee pots and answering phones (Mad Men?). What we often miss is the fact that the word ezer (helper) is, except for this instance, almost exclusively used about god and the meaning is more in line with saviour than secretary. In fact the word is often used to describe the liberating and protective power of god like for example in Deutoronomy 33.26, 29.

So if ezer means power maybe we should read the second creation story as god creating a power corresponding to the male power. This reading brings the second creation story back in line with the egalitarian stanza in the creation song of genesis one where humans are created equal in god’s image as both men and women.

Patriarchal and misogynistic societies have always tried to hijack scripture and never more so than the famous Eshet Chayil poem (Prov 31) which has been reduced to a todo list for women in servitude, when it was meant as a praise song to women. In fact, many Jewish scholars argue that Prov 31 is an allegorical poem where jewish women are representing the Shekina (glory) of god, the Shabat, the Torah and the human soul. Which makes the poem a tribute to womanhood, in fact Rachel Held Evans claims that whenever a woman in a Jewish household does anything in service to the family the men would exclaim ESHET CHAYIL! as a praise of her valour.

The tragic scapegoating that happens in Gen 3 is unfortunately still going on.

“The woman you gave me, made me ….”

The punishment in Gen 3 is that the woman should submit to the man and her desire should be for her husband. Although we see a gentle correction balancing the scales in the Song of Songs where the shulamite woman exclaims “I belong to my beloved and his desire is for me” just before the powerful woman asserts “my garden is my own and I give it to whomever I choose”

I think it is extremely interesting that in spite of some of the latter writings of the early church (like 1 and 2 Timothy) there have been found contemporary parchments like this recent one that speaks of jesus high view of women.

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All of Jesus’ interactions with women attest to this sincere respect and love that honours the feminine and never demands submission. The first apostles (apostle meaning: witness of the resurrection) where women. And Junia was recorded by Paul to be the best of them all.

I could go on but I think the trajectory is clear from the very beginning of genesis until the last pages of revelation and especially through the ministry of jesus that as far as god is concerned, not only are women not inferior, rather, every woman is a powerful image bearer of god’s unique power, glory and beauty!

So whatever we might glean from scriptures about the role of women, inferiority never was a part of the picture.

ESHET CHAYIL!

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