A female adult. However, the word woman is sometimes used in the Bible to refer to a weak and helpless man .

In order to understand the Old Testament view of woman, one must turn to the Book of Genesis. When God created mankind, He created both "male and female" . Both were created in God's image and both were given the responsibility of exercising authority over God's creation. The man was created before the woman. Because the man needed companionship and a helper, God caused the man to sleep. From him He created a woman, "a helper comparable to him" . Man is incomplete without woman. Because she is called a "helper" does not imply that she is inferior to man. The same Hebrew word translated as helper is used of God in His relationship to Israel .

The culture that developed around the Israelites in ancient times did not always have this perspective of woman. Certain Old Testament passages tend to reflect an attitude that woman was little more than a thing and that a woman should be entirely subordinate to man. This tendency became pronounced before the coming of Christ. One of the Jewish prayers that dated from that era declared, "I thank Thee that I am not a woman."

Jesus lived and taught a better way-- the way of love. He allowed women to accompany Him and His disciples on their journeys . He talked with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well and led her to a conversion experience . Jesus did not think it strange that Mary sat at His feet, assuming the role of a disciple; in fact, He suggested to Martha that she should do likewise . Although the Jews segregated the women in both Temple and synagogue, the early church did not separate the congregation by sex .

The apostle Paul wrote, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" . Within the writings of Paul, however, other statements restrict women from participating in church leadership as freely as men. Women were to keep silent in church; they were to be submissive to the male leaders <1 Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:11-12>.

How does one reconcile these two seemingly opposing views? In Galatians Paul was stating a general principle that men and women were equal, just as the slave is equal to his master in the sight of God. However, Paul did not require or teach that the slaveholder had to release his slaves. In the same manner, Paul requested the women to be submissive to their husbands-- to preserve order within the church and to be a witness to outsiders.

Some of the finest leaders in Israel were women, in spite of the fact that the culture was male-dominated. Military victories were sometimes won because of the courage of one woman . God revealed His Word through PROPHETESSES . God used Priscilla and her husband Aquila to explain "the way of God more accurately" to Apollos the preacher . The heroes of faith mentioned in include Sarah , Moses' mother , and Rahab the harlot .

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

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