Is Christianity Oppressive or Liberating for Women? – page 4




Is Christianity
Oppressive or Liberating
for Women?

by Amy Orr-Ewing,
Europe/Middle East Director for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and Director of Programs for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA)

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We don’t just encounter male heroes; we also meet female heroines in the Old Testament. Remember the ancient Near Eastern context into which these texts are set, and read of Deborah who led her people, read of Queen Esther whom God raised up to save her people.

Perhaps even more fascinatingly, in the Old Testament feminine imagery is used to describe God Himself. In Isaiah 42 God draws an analogy between Himself and a warrior and then between Himself and a woman giving birth. This is an interesting and graphic portrait of God using earthly language from the realm of female experience. Another example might be Isaiah 66, God saying, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” That is not misogynistic.

The New Testament

In the New Testament, there are numerous significant events involving women. Particularly when we consider the conservative cultural attitudes of the time, this is amazing. That context is opened up to our view by a tiny little statement in the middle of John’s Gospel, chapter 4. The context is the famous encounter of Jesus and the woman at the well. There’s a telling little phrase in verse 27 that sheds light on just how radical the Bible and Christ Himself is in His treatment of women. The disciples come to Jesus during His conversation with a Samaritan woman. We’re told in the narrative that the disciples were astonished to find Him talking with a woman, talking, just talking.

Jesus time and time again turns these cultural norms on their heads. He does it, first, by having female disciples. In a culture where the idea of women traveling around with men or having the status of a disciple was totally questionable, Jesus has women included in His traveling circle. Luke’s Gospel tells us:

The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. [8:1–3 NIV]

So the tradition offers praise to these women who traveled with Jesus and paid for the entire enterprise. What a sharp contrast with a contemporary Jewish author, Ben Sirach of Jerusalem, writing reflecting the more prevalent attitude of the time when he said, “Bad temper, insolence, and shame hold sway where the wife supports the husband.” Jesus doesn’t think like that at all. He travels with women in His group of disciples, and He allows them to give financially to the needs of the group. We see Jesus specifically teaching women. Often people don’t understand how extraordinarily important this is and how the way it’s phrased in the New Testament is really important.


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