Updated: Jul 12, 2018
Are there certain religious beliefs that relate to the abuse of women? Can extreme doctrines of male headship and female submission put an individual, family, or even a congregation at a risk of abuse? Can the Bible be misused to hurt and reinforce destructive behavior? This paper is intended to investigate the relationship between the traditional interpretation of Scripture regarding marriage, and the family and the known characteristics of the abusive family. Many of the traditional religious concepts of male dominance, female submission, and female inferiority correlate with some of the reasons behind abuse in the marriage and family. There is no suggestion that any of these beliefs alone necessarily causes abuse. However, the concern is whether these beliefs can interact with other factors and create an atmosphere where abuse may occur.
Beliefs and convictions have tremendous consequences upon social behavior and patterns of thought.
REVIEW OF TOPICS AND THE SCRIPTURE TEXTS
The primary passages from which interpretations are taken regarding women are 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, 1 Timothy 2, Colossians 3, Ephesians 5, and 1 Peter 3. These passages are traditionally interpreted in the following manner:
(1) Creation order is a God-ordained hierarchy that places the man above the woman in authority in marriage and the family. The husband is the head, the leader (priest), and the authority over the wife and children; with the wife only having authority over the children. Final authority in all matters always belongs to the husband or the man.
(2) Marriage offers specific roles for the husband and the wife. The role of the leader belongs to the husband who is responsible for the spiritual welfare of the family and the wife is the submissive member.
(3) The husband and wife may discuss major decisions, but the final power of decision rests with the husband.
(4) The role of providing for the family belongs to the husband while the internal affairs of the home such as raising the children belongs to the wife.
(5) The term patriarchy is used to describe the social organization and the set of beliefs that grant and sustain male dominance over women and children.
The male/female submission issue in biblical interpretation relates primarily to five topics and texts:
(1) The meaning of the term kephale or head (1 Cor. 11:2-16 and Eph. 5:21-33).
(2) The meaning of authentein or “authority over” (1 Tim. 2:12 and 1 Tim. 2:8-15).
(3) The creation order relationship of men and women taken from Genesis 1-3.
(4) The Old Testament passages that reveal women in authority and the passages that relate women in the life of Jesus and within the ministry of Paul’s circle of leaders (Matt. 9:20-22; Lk. 7:36-50, 10:38-42; Jn. 4:28-29, 39, 42; Rom. 16:1, 3, 7, 12).
(5) The meaning of submission and silence in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. 1 Tim. 2:12).