What time period in history would you like to live in? Some of my lady friends have said ancient Greece or Rome. From the movies, they have said it was a more romantic time. Fair enough…let’s look at how women were treated back then:
-women were not allowed to leave their house without a male escort, typically one of the male slaves
-women couldn’t divorce their husbands, but the husbands could divorce their wives over just about anything
-when her husband’s male guests were present in his home, she wasn’t allowed to be with them and had to retire to her own part of the house
-her husband was allowed a mistress and when he entertained guests at his home, his mistress could be with him but his wife had to retire to her ‘quarters’
-girls couldn’t go to school at all
-girls were not allowed to speak in public
-female infanticide (the killing of newborn females) far exceeded that of males
-one Greek scholar wrote that a male child was her principal source of prestige & validation, whereas a female child was an economic & social burden
-Greek poets were fond of equating women with evil. It was the Greek myth of Pandora’s box that blamed women for introducing evil into the world
Ooppss….this doesn’t sound so romantic, does it? Let’s try Rome!
-some upper class women received some education in grammar & reading, but they still were not allowed to be present when their husband had guests for meals
-she was under the complete absolute control of her husband (the Roman law of Mannus). He had ownership of her and all of her possessions
-she couldn’t divorce him but he could divorce het at any time
-she even lacked the right to tell his slaves what to do
-she was legally prohibited from owning any property
-her husband could kill her for adultery
-he could kill her for a non-adulterous offense with the approval of an extended family tribunal
-she was prohibited from speaking in public or in court
Ooppss….that doesn’t sound much better, does it? I’ll bet you don’t see these things in the movies.
Even in the Jewish culture, women were not treated equally with men. Jewish teaching said that
-the rabbinic oral law prohibited women from testifying in court
-another rabbinic teaching said it was shameful to hear a woman’s voice in public around men
-women were separated from the men in the synagogue, which consisted entirely of men speaking and singing
What happened to change all this? Into this Roman culture, Jesus came saying that women are equal with men before God (Galatians 3:28). INCREDIBLE….gutsy, that’s for sure.
For a Jew to speak to a Samaritan was bad enough but in John’s gospel, chapter 4 Jesus actually spoke TO A WOMAN. To teach a women was uncouth but Jesus called for a verbal response from Martha in John’s gospel, chapter 11. Oh heavens, call out the PC police.
-women followed Jesus…Mark 15:41 & Luke 8:1-3
-Jesus healed women…Mark 5:24-34
-women were the first to see the resurrected Christ…Matthew 28:10
-the apostolic church welcomed women…Philemon 2, Colossians 4:15 & 1st Corinthians 16:19
Christianity’s growth was also the result of Christian women not practicing abortion & infanticide, which were extremely common to the Greeks and Romans. Given the Roman culture’s negativity towards women, they saw the Christians views as a threat to their domestic tranquility. They also saw it as a weakness.
In 374 A.D., the Roman Emperor Valentinian repealed the thousand year old laws against women, due to Christian influence.
Christian women married later than their pagan counterparts, but they also married men of their own choice whereas before, her father had made that decision for her. The western tradition of a woman choosing her own mate is due solely to Christianity.
Although Greek & Roman men could only marry one wife, most other cultures permitted polygamy (a man marrying many wives). To a large extent, Christianity stopped this because of Genesis 1:27, 28 & Matthew 19:4-6 where a marriage is between one man and one woman. Even today, multiple marriage is permitted in many countries, especially Muslim dominated countries. In these countries, women have little rights. While the church hasn’t always listened as carefully to Jesus’ teaching on this subject, they have done much better than the rest of the world.
Yes, Christianity has been the best thing to happen to women.
Reference: “How Christianity Changed the World” by Dr. Alvin Schmidt &
For His Kingdom,