In an earlier post I discussed the two events which have triggered discussions on some women’s issues: our obsession with looks, and women who stay at home to raise their children and choose not to pursue a career. In that post I criticized liberals for being rather narrow-minded because they claim to want freedom for women, but only if women make the “right” choices consistent with liberal doctrine. If a woman chooses to stay at home, that’s not in keeping with liberal orthodoxy and that woman – such as Ann Romney – is criticized for “not working a day in her life.”
Liberals aren’t the only ones who want to keep women in their place, however you might define “place.” Some conservative/fundamentalist Christians have used certain biblical passages against women. Admittedly, some biblical passages can be interpreted in various ways. However, I believe interpretations that suppress women are in error. In studying the Bible, you have to look at passages in context. Biblical passages should be analyzed and understood in at least five ways:
First, the passage should be understood in its immediate context. What comes before and what comes after the passage gives the reader the immediate context and helps to interpret the passage more accurately. Taking a passage stand-alone without its context can result in an erroneous interpretation.
Second, the passage should be understood in overall biblical context, that is, what the rest of the Bible says on a subject. If the passage your are studying is the only place in the Bible that seems to say so-and-so, then you might question your understand of its meaning. If your understanding of the passage actually contradicts what is said elsewhere in the Bible, then your interpretation is wrong.
Third, for Christians the passages should be understood in light of the teachings of Jesus Christ, also employing church tradition (the traditional interpretation of a passage), reason, and experience.
Fourth, a biblical passage should be understood in the context of the culture, society, and religious practices of the day. That includes both Israelite/Jewish and Greco-Roman.
Fifth, a biblical passage can sometimes be better understood by looking at the original language and understanding the nuances of the words used. Since most people don’t know biblical Hebrew or Koine Greek, we have to depend on commentaries or footnotes in study Bibles to help us with that.
Getting back to women’s issues, men have used various passages written by the Apostle Paul to suppress women. However, when these passages are analyzed using the five steps I described above, a different interpretation emerges (as I see it – of course some will disagree with me).