Women in the Teachings of Christianity
In her book Islam and Christianity, Ulfat Azizusamad attributed the introduction of monogyny into Christianity, and hence admiring celibacy, to the negative attitudes many Christian religious leaders held towards women and mar- riage in general.
In her book Islam and Christianity, Ulfat Azizusamad attributed the introduction of monogyny into Christianity, and hence admiring celibacy, to the negative attitudes many Christian religious leaders held towards women and mar- riage in general. St. Paul, the real founder of the current form of Christianity, regarded women as temptresses. He laid the entire blame for the fall of man and the genesis of sin on women. We find in the New Testament statements that un- derscore such negative attitudes towards women; among which are the following:
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp au- thority over the man, but to be in si- lence. 13 ForAdam was first formed, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not de- ceived, but the woman being de- ceived was in the transgression. 15 Not withstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith, charity, and holiness with so- briety.
In order to understand the reason behind the contempt of women in the West for many centuries, we need to ana- lyze the extreme position canonized saints of Christianity held against women. Some of these teachings are listed below:
"Woman is a daughter of falsehood, a sentinel of Hell, the enemy of peace; through her Adam lost Para- dise." (St. John Damascene, P.79) "Woman is the instrument which the Devil uses to gain possession of our souls." (St. Cyprian, P.79) "Woman has the poison of an asp, the malice of a dragon." (St. Gregory the Great, P.79)
The supreme engineer of the New Testament, St. Paul, addressed women with a much more severe language.
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I don't permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. AndAdam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner"
(I Timothy 2:11-14).
St. Tertullian was even blunter and more candid than St. Paul, while he was addressing his 'best beloved sisters' in the faith, he said:
"Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the di- vine law: You are she who per- suaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You de- stroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die."
St. Augustine was faithful to the legacy of his prede- cessors, he wrote to a friend:
"What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman......I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing chil- dren."
Centuries later, St. Thomas Aquinas still considered women as defective:
"As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegot- ten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indis- position, or even from some exter- nal influence."
Azeem, as an expert in women rights alludes to some of the most prominent Christian reforms by stating:" the re- nowned reformer Martin Luther could not see any benefit from a woman but bringing into the world as many children as possible regardless of any side effects:
"If they become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in child- birth, that's why they are there"
Again and again all women are denigrated because of the image of Eve the temptress, thanks to the Genesis ac- count. To sum up, the Judaeo-Christian conception of women has been poisoned by the belief in the sinful nature of Eve and her female offspring".
Understandably, many Christian monks preferred the life of celibacy to getting married to women. Marriage was looked at as a practice, which is too worldly. It will divert the person from devoting his full time to God. In modern times, this system of worship has proved to be fraught with prob- lems. Very few people today are willing to embrace celibacy and join the priesthood. The number of young people seen in nunneries and monasteries is dwindling.
Following the Jewish tra- dition as represented by the Old Testament and having in mind that Prophet Jesus (SAAW) never prohibited polygyny, early Jews and Christians were polygnous. It was given as an option for those who can carry the responsibility of marriage and family life not for those seek- ing the pleasures of sex. Some sects of Christianity still practice this tradition (i.e. the Mormons of Utah in the US). It is re- ported in the Old Testament that King Solomon (SAAW) had many wives.