What does the Bible say about equality? We know women everywhere have been fighting for equality since the late 1700s. Significantly, a women’s rights convention in 1848 began decades of activism that eventually led to the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
During this time, women began to break all sorts of barriers–becoming doctors for the first time, holding positions in government offices, and being elected to Congress. Then, in 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, prohibiting wage discrimination between men and women. These landmark moments in history began paving the way for equality between the sexes.
But what does the Bible say about equality? Are men and women equal in the Bible, and do scriptures provide any indication of God’s original intent for the relationship between men and women? The answers to these questions and more provide a revolutionary hope for the future of humanity.
What Does the Bible Say About Equality?
In the beginning, God… cared about equality. “In Genesis chapter one it is clear that God has given man and woman joint dominion over creation:
God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. … See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:28-29)
As the text makes very clear, Adam and Eve, who can be taken to represent the male and female sexes, have both been given dominion by God over creation” (Jesus and Women, p. 3).
Are Men and Women Equal in the Bible?
While joint dominion and equality between the male and female sexes were God’s original plan, sin entered the world, and this joint dominion was lost. “Over time, relations between the sexes became tragically characterized by lust, domination, and the subordination of women. This was not the will of God, who intended that men and women should live in mutual and self-giving love for one another” (Jesus and Women, p. 4).
As time went on, Biblical text exemplifies how the criminal and religious laws of the time, as well as social customs and norms, unfairly and unjustly treated women. Remember: this was not God’s will but a result of sin and evolutionary biology. This is evident in how God cared for women in the Old Testament and how Jesus treated women radically differently than expected during His time on earth.
Bible Verses About Equality in Gender
Part of Jesus’ mission while on earth was to begin the work necessary for restoring harmony between the sexes. This is evident in passages like Galatians 3:26-28, which states:
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
However, based on the recent #MeToo movement, we know that gender inequality, patriarchy, and “the battle of the sexes” still play a central role in our society–even more so in other countries where women still have little to no rights.
So, does this mean Jesus didn’t accomplish what he set out to do? No, because “in the Early Church women and men were equally involved in church ministries. With its change of status into the state religion of the Roman Empire, however, it became highly patriarchal and developed attributes common to religion, in general, that are at odds with the ministry of its founder” (Jesus and Women, p. 129).
Jesus’ message inspired change. However, historically-founded, cultural, and religious barriers continued to find a way to oppress and segregate women from the church and certain aspects of work and life.
How to Restore Harmony Between the Sexes and Achieve Equality
So, what do we do to bridge the gap between God’s intent for equality in the Bible and the ever-apparent inequality in our world?
If you’re interested in learning more about what the Bible says about equality, how women were treated in the Old Testament compared to Jesus’ treatment of women in the New Testament, and how it establishes a path toward restoration between the sexes, I encourage you to read Jesus and Women.
In it, I combine insights from evolutionary biology, feminism, and the #MeToo movement to encourage Christian women to reclaim their religion and correct the regressive course that Christianity has taken since Roman times–focusing on a revolution of grace as the solution for a full restoration of the harmony between the sexes.