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 Vol. 5, No. 3 

March 2003

~ Page 14 ~

Women, Culture Driven?

By Owen D. Olbricht

The assumption that God desires women's role to be determined by culture is false. In no case does the Bible teach that women are to look to society for their religious practices. Paul taught that women are to live by God's plan for them (1 Corinthians 11:7-9; 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:13-14). Peter presented godly women and Sarah, not culture, as models for Christian women (1 Peter 3:5-6).

The women in Paul's day were involved in leading roles even as women of today want to be involved.

Substantial evidence exists to indicate that women held many of these public offices and were expected to exercise their public religious duties just as men were. Woman's names are recorded in a wide variety of official inscriptions recording-and honoring-their public service and generosity. They maintained temples and sponsored games, procession, and sacrifices (Rose Shephard Kraemer and Mary Rose D'Angelo, Women and Christian Origins, 86).

In agreement with this Abrahamsen wrote:

Women served as priestesses and other leaders in most pagan cults, including Diana, Isis, Livia, Dionysos and Liber and Libera. They were active participants in liturgies, composed hymns and rites, administered temple and cult finances, organized feast day celebrations, played music and made leadership decisions that affected large numbers of people (Valerie A. Abrahamsen, Women and Worship at Philippi: Diana/Artemis and Other Cults in the Early Christian Era, 194.

Nevertheless, the Hellenistic age was generally a time of the emancipation of women...But in spite of the opposition, women in Paul's day had considerable freedom of movement, rights in marriage and divorce, and in some places and in some cults, the right to hold public and religious office...Nevertheless, most Greek woman had abandoned the veil and were experimenting with countless styles of coiffure (William Baird, The Corinthian Church -- A Biblical Approach to Urban Culture, 121-122).

Women took part in the persecution of Paul and Barnabas in Pisidian Antioch. "But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region" (Acts 13:50). This passage does not say that women were leaders in public worship, but it does indicate that women were prominent in the city and as such were mentioned along with the chief men in persecuting Paul and Barnabas.

Also women are mentioned as leaders in the community in Thessalonica. "And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas" (Acts 17:4).

Standard for Women

God expected Israel to live by his commandments and not according to the practices of other peoples. He gave strict instruction to this effect to Israel.

"According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 18:3-4).

The standard for Christians, including women, is not the practices of society around them (Romans 12:2). Their goal should be to practice all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:20). His commandments are found in New Testament teaching through the inspired apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:3-5). What they wrote is the commandments of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37).

The question should not be, "What is society doing?" but, "What does Jesus want?" Image

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