That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on [ My ] menservants and on [ My ] maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
Ask any good Bible-believing Fundamentalist Christian & they will most likely, maybe even fiercely tell you that 'women do not belong in the pulpit; much less in the guise of pastor or preacher!' Even many Christians who aren't so 'conservative' are quick to rely on the apostle Paul's words in I Timothy 2:12, 'And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence' My purpose here is not to render a discourse on what the apostle meant by these seemingly plain, but mus-understood instructions, but simply to remind my readers that his words were directed at a certain individual, during a certain period of time & in a certain place. In other letters, Paul also said things like, 'The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband [ does ]'& 'likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife [ does]'.
In certain cultures around the world, particularly those of Eastern descent, but even, to some extent, those living in the West, women are still relegated to a slightly less elevated stature than men of the male persuasion! The Hebrew Scriptures are somewhat to blame for this, but mostly, I believe, because of a misinterpretation of them. I have written previously on the 'evils' of 'A Focus on the Physical': this problem, I believe, falls under that umbrella as well, because of the focus on women as child-bearers. Really, men shoulder as much responsibility because they not only share in the act of procreation, they share much of the pain in child-bearing & birth; after the birth, the REAL struggle then begins, although fraught with blessing; that of rearing the child. In Matthew's record of the Gospel, he names five notable, though questionable, women in the lineage of Jesus; Sarah, for instance, though traditionally one of the first mothers of Israel, indeed one might say, the Queen Mother of Israel, bears not even a mention!
In one of his famous 'Jew & Gentile' statements, the apostle Paul also 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.' ( Galatians 3:28 ) I do not believe that Paul meant that there was no longer any distinction between men & women; he simply meant that it did not matter if you were not an Israelite by birth. or a man or a woman by birth. One was accepted by faith & according to Promise. 'Why, according to that famous promise in Genesis 3:15, was it 'the Seed of the woman' that would crush the serpent's head; was not Jesus called 'the Son of Man' as well?' This point, about the siring of Jesus, has been one of contention among modern scholars for probably hundreds of years, so whether Jesus meant by saying 'Son of Man' in a metaphorical sense, or whether His fathering had a more natural explanation, women have really always, at least in word, enjoyed a rather exalted position!
In the greatest sense, one might say, women have been set free by the New Covenant; hell, we have ALL been set free, right? This is not to say that, at one time, men WERE better than women, although they DID enjoy a higher status; women have ALWAYS been on equal footing before the Living God, but since the Exultation of Mary, women have enjoyed a higher status than they had previously known. Even in this nation, as well as most Western nations, women DO enjoy a more elevated position than in many Eastern ones. The distinctions, biologically speaking, between men & women are obvious; both are very well-fitted, in most cases, for the duties they were assigned, but when it comes to their exalted position in the King of the Living God, they are equals!
In Mary's exultation & subsequent exaltation, she became one of the most famous women ever! Though not a great figure, like Sampson or David, Mary is known world-wide as being the mother of Jesus, who in reality, was the Creator Himself ( ? ). Western culture, though it holds women in higher esteem, maybe, than some Eastern cultures, yet, for whatever reason, tends to place men more than women in positions of authority. While it is true that most men, or at least some men more naturally assume & fulfill this role, there are many women who are no less capable, even compatible for such positions. In ancient times, even in Near Eastern culture, the Roman/Greek world, to be exact, most women enjoyed a status slightly lower than, possibly equal to that of a slave; in the modern Near East, some might argue, it's not much better, but in the West, where the Gospel has had a more evident impact, women enjoy a status almost equal to that of men, though they still must traditionally turn to men as their 'head'!
In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul wrote mot famously, 'Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord' ( Ephesians 5:22 ), but previously, he told them to submit to one another ( 21 )! In the same vein, the apostle Peter told his readers to submit to each other ( I Peter 5:5 ). Women ARE to submit to their husbands, but husbands are to submit to their wives as well! Yes, Scripture says that, as the Christ ( Jesus ) is the Head of the Church, so men are the head of their wife, of their family. Traditionally, men have enjoyed 'the final say', husbandly prerogative', the 'head' of the table & so on & so forth: yes, it's Scriptural, but is it right? With our continually evolving understanding of the Story of Israel, especially in the Light of the New Covenant, can/should we continue to hold with such reverence these views of women that we have practiced for ages?
Charles Haddon Shank