He Doesn’t FREAKING Get Us – Part 2: Jesus Supported Women’s Equality?
There is a BILLION DOLLAR ad campaign going on now called “He Gets Us” (hereafter: HGU). The campaign is promoting Jesus and Christianity. Like most advertising campaigns, and like most efforts to promote the Christian religion, this effort has produced a large helping of BULLSHIT.
So, I’m doing what I can to point a spotlight on claims or ideas put forward by HGU that are falsehoods, lies, inaccuracies, fallacies, dubious claims, or that involve illogical reasoning.
In Part 1 of this series, I showed that the HGU claim that “Jesus was a refugee” is probably FALSE, and that even if the extremely dubious story about Jesus provided to support that claim was true, Jesus would have been a refugee when he was only one or two years old, and so would not have remembered anything that he experienced as a refugee. The “Jesus was a refugee” post on the HGU website is BULLSHIT.
DID JESUS SUPPORT WOMEN’S EQUALITY?
In order to make Jesus seem hip and ahead of his time, an HGU post portrays Jesus as a feminist, as a proponent of the view that there should be EQUALITY between women and men. The title of this post on the HGU website is this:
Four ways Jesus supported women’s equality.
At the end of the first paragraph of that post, we find this sentence:
So let’s explore four ways Jesus promoted women’s equality.“Four ways Jesus supported women’s equality.”
The title of this post and this sentence in the post when taken together clearly imply the following historical claim:
Jesus supported and promoted the equality of women with men.
This statement is FALSE. Jesus was NOT a feminist. Jesus did NOT support or promote EQUALITY between men and women.
This fact is so obvious that the FALSE HGU historical claim that Jesus supported and promoted the equality of women with men appears to be a LIE rather than just a mistake or error. In any case, whether this is an intentional deception by HGU or just an idiotic belief, this claim is pure unadulterated BULLSHIT. No intelligent educated person should accept this historical claim about Jesus.
Jesus worshipped and obeyed JEHOVAH, the god of Israel, a god who supported and promoted SEXISM and the INEQUALITY of men and women. Jesus cherished, admired, studied, memorized, and quoted Jewish scriptures as being inspired by Jehovah, the god of Israel, and as authoritative for answering questions about how to live our lives.
The Jewish scriptures clearly teach that women are NOT equal to men and that women are to be treated and viewed as the property of men. Jesus being a devout first-century Jew, accepted the sexism supported and promoted by Jehovah, the god of Israel, whom Jesus worshipped and obeyed, and Jesus accepted the sexism supported and promoted by the Jewish scriptures that he cherished and devoutly followed.
The view that Jesus supported and promoted the equality of women with men is clearly and obviously mistaken. This idea is a product of wishful thinking combined with ignorance about the Old Testament (the Christian name for the Jewish scriptures that Jesus studied and followed). It also involves blindness to, and/or ignorance of, the significance of the words and actions of the historical Jesus.
Jehovah’s chosen great prophet and savior of the nation of Israel was a MAN (Moses). Jehovah’s chosen great leader who took the place of Moses was a MAN (Joshua). Jehovah’s chosen great priest over the religion of Israel was a MAN (Aaron, the brother of Moses). Jehovah only permitted MEN to be priests in the religion of Israel (Aaron and his sons: Exodus 28: 1 & 40-43, 29:9 & 44).
All of the books of prophecy in Jewish scripture are attributed to MEN (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc.). This evidence by itself shows that Jehovah and the Jewish scriptures both supported and promoted SEXISM, and the INEQUALITY of men and women.
If you actually READ the Old Testament (the Jewish scriptures that Jesus cherished and followed), you will find that the contents of those writings consistently support and promote sexism. In Genesis, Jehovah created the first woman to be a helper for the first man. In Exodus, Jehovah chose a MAN (Moses) to be his prophet and to lead the nation of Israelites to leave Egypt.
In Exodus, Jehovah gave his sacred Laws to a MAN (Moses), and told Moses to present these Laws to the Israelites:
10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. …” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people. He consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes. 15 And he said to the people, “Prepare for the third day; do not go near a woman.”Exodus 19:10-15, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition, emphasis added
The requirement that “all the people” should prepare themselves to see Jehovah, their god, come down upon Mount Sinai by NOT going “near a woman” implies that by “all the people” Jehovah meant ONLY THE MEN of Israel, not the women, not the children.
Seeing Jehovah in person and being present when Jehovah revealed his sacred Laws to the nation of Israel was something that Jehovah only wanted MEN to experience, not women, and not children. This is clear evidence of SEXISM on the part of both Jehovah and Moses. This was one of many ways in which Jehovah (and Moses) supported and promoted the INEQUALITY of women with men.
Note that when Jehovah does appear before the Israelites, Jehovah never says to Moses, “Where are the women? I asked you to gather ALL the people!” That is because by “all the people” Jehovah meant ONLY THE MEN, just as Moses understood, because Jehovah was a SEXIST who promoted and supported the INEQUALITY of women with men.
In Exodus, Jehovah gives Moses the Ten Commandments, and those commandments are SEXIST.
FIRST of all, the prohibition of rape is NOT one of the Ten Commandments. So, Jehovah considered it more important for people to avoid working on the sabbath day and for people to avoid stealing money or valuables from others than to refrain from raping girls or women!! That is clearly the priorities of a SEXIST, the priorities of a god who does NOT view women as being EQUAL to men.
SECOND of all, some of the commandments are SEXIST in themselves. This commandment is SEXIST for example:
14 “You shall not commit adultery.Exodus 20:14, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
I’m NOT saying this commandment is sexist because it assumes that heterosexual marriage is a worthwhile practice or tradition. Even assuming that heterosexual marriage is a worthwhile practice or tradition that can be engaged in without involving sexism or inequality of men and women, this commandment is sexist because “adultery” here means: sex between a man and another man’s wife:
In the ancient Near East and the OT (Lev. 18:20; 20:10; Deut. 22:22) adultery meant consensual sexual intercourse by a married woman with a man other than her husband. However, intercourse between a married man and another woman was not considered adultery unless she was married.“Adultery” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p.23
In other words, what this commandment means is that Jehovah doesn’t want one man to “steal” sex with another man’s wife. Jehovah views the wife of a man as his property, and so if any other man has sex with the man’s wife, the other man is using a woman who belongs to someone else. This commandment is merely an extension of the commandment against theft.
But Jehovah does NOT view the husband as the property of his wife. So, if an unmarried woman has sex with a married man, that woman is NOT stealing sex with another woman’s husband, because husbands do NOT (in Jehovah’s view) belong to their wives. Wives are the property of their husbands, but husbands are NOT the property of their wives, so this commandment does NOT prohibit a husband from having sex with an unmarried woman!
This commandment does prohibit a wife from having sex with an unmarried man. This commandment is clearly SEXIST, and it clearly assumes that women are NOT equal to men, because it assumes that wives are the property of their husbands, but husbands are NOT the property of their wives.
Not only is this a SEXIST DOUBLE STANDARD that was supported and promoted by Jehovah, the god of Israel, but this commandment was backed up with the DEATH PENALTY:
If a man is discovered lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.Deuteronomy 22:22, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
So, a wife who has sex with an unmarried man is guilty of the crime of “adultery”, and thus is subject to execution, according to the laws of Jehovah, but a husband who has sex with an unmarried woman is NOT guilty of the crime of “adultery” and thus is NOT subject to execution. This is a horrible and oppressive example where Jehovah supported and promoted SEXISM and the INEQUALITY of women with men.
Another of the Ten Commandments reinforces the idea that women are the property of their husbands:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female slave, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”Exodus 20:17, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Coveting is desiring to possess something that belongs to somebody else. Coveting is bad because it can lead to stealing. This commandment provides a list of examples of things that might belong to “your neighbor”:
- a house
- a wife
- a slave
- an ox
- a donkey
Notice that “a husband” is missing from this list. Everything in this list is something that Jehovah views as belonging to someone (i.e. to a MAN who is your neighbor). Wives are assumed to be one of the possessions of their husbands. But husbands are NOT assumed to be one of the possessions of their wives.
Furthermore, the list is DOUBLY SEXIST, because it appears to be ordered by value. A house is the most valuable item in this list (in Jehovah’s SEXIST view), a wife is valuable, more valuable than a slave or an ox, but not as valuable as a house! This list not only promotes SEXISM and the view that women are UNEQUAL to men but also promotes the view that women, even one’s own wife, could reasonably be viewed as a piece of property that is less valuable than a house.
The Old Testament (i.e. the Jewish scriptures) is filled with SEXISM and the view that women and men are UNEQUAL (men being superior to and of greater value than women). Jehovah is a SEXIST who promoted and supported SEXISM. Jesus worshipped and obeyed Jehovah. Jesus cherished and followed the Jewish scriptures as an authoritative guide to how to live his life. Jesus thus embraced SEXISM and the INEQUALITY of men and women that Jehovah and the Jewish scriptures consistently promoted and supported.
THIRD of all, the Old Testament (i.e. the Jewish scriptures) does have laws against rape, but those laws are specified in a clearly SEXIST way. Working on the sabbath day was a crime that was punished with the death penalty (Numbers 15:32-36). But if a woman was raped by a man, the man could pay her father some money and take the woman as his wife, so there would be no death penalty for the rapist, but the woman who was the victim of the rape would have to be married to this violent and abusive man for the rest of her life:
28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged and seizes her and lies with her, and they are discovered, 29 the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife.Deuteronomy 22:28-29, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
The woman’s father is the one who was wronged, in the view of Jehovah. The woman was the property of her father, and after being raped she is “damaged goods”. Because she is no longer a virgin, she is of less value. This is not viewed as a crime of violence, but rather as a property crime. The father’s property was damaged by the man who raped his daughter. This is another clear example of how Jehovah supported and promoted SEXISM and the INEQUALITY of women with men.
FOURTH of all, women were required by Jehovah to be virgins when they married (for the first time). If a woman was believed to not be a virgin when she got married, that was a crime punishable by DEATH:
13 “Suppose a man marries a woman but after going in to her …charges against her… saying, ‘I married this woman, but when I lay with her, I did not find evidence of her virginity.’Deuteronomy 22:13 & 20-21, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
20 “If…this charge is true, that evidence of the young woman’s virginity was not found, 21 then they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father’s house, and the men of her town shall stone her to death, because she committed a disgraceful act in Israel by prostituting herself in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
But men were NOT required to be virgins when they married, so it was NOT a crime punishable by DEATH for a man to lose his virginity before he was married. This is yet another SEXIST DOUBLE STANDARD that was supported and promoted by Jehovah, the god of Israel.
FIFTH of all, Jesus followed the lead provided by his SEXIST god Jehovah. Jesus chose twelve of his followers to be part of an inner circle of his closest disciples. How many of “the twelve” were women? ZERO! Every disciple chosen by Jesus to be part of his inner circle was a MAN. No women were invited to be part of “the twelve”. Jesus was just as much a SEXIST as the god he worshipped. In choosing twelve men and no women to be part of his inner circle of disciples, Jesus supported and promoted the INEQUALITY of women with men.
WHAT EVIDENCE DOES HGU GIVE TO SUPPORT THE CLAIM THAT JESUS SUPPORTED WOMEN’S EQUALITY?
The post claims to point out “four ways Jesus promoted women’s equality.”
THE FIRST WAY has to do with the genealogy of Jesus that is presented in the Gospel of Matthew:
The Gospels are four different accounts of Jesus’ life written by four of his followers. The first one that appears in most Bibles is written by Matthew. He starts his story the same way many biographical books began back then — by tracing Jesus’ genealogy.“Four ways Jesus supported women’s equality.”
Matthew includes a few clues in the genealogy that help us understand how Jesus thought about gender equality. He includes five women. That would have been very strange for the time. Stranger still are the women he chose to include as Jesus’ ancestors.
This Gospel was probably NOT written by Matthew the disciple of Jesus. That is a traditional belief that Sunday school teachers tell children, but it is NOT the view of most serious NT scholars. So, we don’t know what connection or relationship the author of this Gospel had with the historical Jesus. More than likely, the author never set eyes on the actual Jesus. So, even if the author of this Gospel was a true feminist, someone who supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men, this would NOT be evidence that Jesus was a feminist, nor that Jesus supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men.
Furthermore, the genealogy in Matthew does NOT show that the author of Matthew was a feminist who supported the EQUALITY of women with men. As the author of the post admits, it is UNCLEAR what the point is of the mention of various women in Jesus’ genealogy:
Of the dozens of women mentioned in Hebrew Scriptures, why were these five women chosen? Is it because they had to do desperate things to survive? Is it because each of them demonstrates different aspects of the plight of gender inequality in most cultures? Is it because they persevered in spite of seemingly impossible circumstances? We don’t know.“Four ways Jesus supported women’s equality.”
The Gospel of Matthew was written about five decades after Jesus was crucified, so the historical Jesus had NO SAY about the composition of this gospel. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that Jesus provided this genealogy to the author of the Gospel of Matthew, so the contents of this genealogy tell us NOTHING about Jesus’ beliefs, Jesus’ practices, Jesus’ teachings, or Jesus’ attitudes about women! The genealogy in Matthew is simply IRRELEVANT to the question at issue.
This first point is a desperate grasping for straws that suggests that there isn’t much (if any) evidence available to prove the highly implausible claim that:
Jesus supported and promoted the equality of women with men.
THE SECOND WAY in which Jesus supposedly supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men is that Jesus frequently talked to women (usually about religion and morality), contrary to the SEXIST attitudes and practices of other Jewish men about women in his day. Because this seems the most plausible of the four points, I will save my response to this point for last.
THE THIRD WAY in which Jesus supposedly supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men is that Jesus allegedly “didn’t tolerate double standards” about women vs. men:
During his ministry, some men brought a woman before Jesus. They accused her of adultery and then quoted the laws that said she should be killed. He successfully defended a woman from being executed publicly for committing adultery. They were looking for Jesus to condemn her as well. But he didn’t. You see, adultery is one of those things that requires two participants. But they didn’t bring the man caught in adultery before Jesus, just the woman. The whole situation reeked of hypocrisy, and Jesus had very little patience for hypocritical men when it came to sexual infractions of his day. So, he stepped in and protected the woman. He wouldn’t stand for the double standards.“Four ways Jesus supported women’s equality.”
There are a number of serious problems with this argument. First of all, the story here is found only in the Gospel of John, and that raises doubts about the historicity of this story.
The Gospel of John is the most historically unreliable Gospel of the four Gospels in the Bible. For that reason, scholars who study the historical Jesus have largely ignored the Gospel of John for the past two centuries. Some Jesus scholars have recently begun to take this Gospel into account in their study of the historical Jesus, but it remains the case that no serious Jesus scholar believes that the Gospel of John provides a historically reliable account of the teachings and ministry of Jesus. If you want to show something about the historical Jesus, you should avoid quoting from the historically dubious Gospel of John.
In addition to the problem of the general unreliability of the Gospel of John, there is a specific serious textual problem with the passage that contains the above story about the adulterous woman. It might well have been a later addition to this Gospel, not part of the original text:
Another sign of such an editorial process may be the manuscript problems associated with the story of the adulterous woman, in which Jesus issues his famous challenge to her accusers, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” In modern Bibles, the story is listed as John 7:53-8:11, but in some manuscripts it is found after John 7:36 or at the very end of the Gospel, following John 21:25. In at least one case it is actually found in Luke’s Gospel, and in many manuscripts it is missing altogether. Texts critics aren’t sure what to make of such evidence. Perhaps the well-known story was added to John’s Gospel by Christians of a later generation…The Gospels by Mark Allan Powell, p.116
Because of the textual issues with this particular passage, it might well be the case that this passage was NOT part of the original text of the Gospel of John and that it was added by someone other than the author of the Gospel years or decades later. This is a second good reason for doubting the historicity of this story about the adulterous woman.
But even if we take this dubious story as being an accurate historical account, it does not show that Jesus was concerned about the double standard of punishing the woman for adultery while NOT punishing the man who was involved. For all we know, the man was already stoned to death before the woman was dragged off to Jesus. Jesus does not ask what happened to the man who was caught having sex with her, which he would have done if he was concerned that both adulterers be treated EQUALLY.
Furthermore, as I have explained above, the commandment against adultery was inherently SEXIST and was one of the many ways in which Jehovah supported and promoted the INEQUALITY of women with men. So, if Jesus was concerned about whether the man involved with this woman was going to be punished along with the woman, then Jesus was, as we would reasonably expect of a devout first-century Jew, concerned with properly observing this commandment from Jehovah, the god of Israel.
The motivation attributed to Jesus by the HGU post implies that Jesus was just concerned about faithfully following a SEXIST commandment, and thus that Jesus was supporting and promoting SEXISM and the INEQUALITY of women with men. This “evidence” proves the very opposite of the central claim in the HGU post.
The FOURTH WAY in which Jesus allegedly supported or promoted EQUALITY of women with men is that “Some of his first and most important followers were women”.
It is true that some of the followers of Jesus were women. However, as I pointed out above, Jesus chose twelve of his followers to be part of an inner circle of his disciples, and he chose ONLY MEN to be in that inner circle of disciples known as “the twelve”. The fact that Jesus had some followers who were women does NOT show that Jesus believed that women were EQUAL to men, nor that he supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men. In choosing ONLY MEN to be part of the inner circle of his disciples, Jesus supported and promoted SEXISM and the INEQUALITY of women with men.
The HGU post points out the importance of Mary Magdalene, one of the women who followed Jesus:
Mary Magdalene is mentioned in the stories of Jesus more often than just about any other follower, including the other men in his inner circle known as the apostles.“Four ways Jesus supported women’s equality.”
This shows that the authors of the Gospels viewed Mary Magdalene as being an important follower of Jesus. But that does NOT mean that Jesus viewed Mary Magdalene as being an important follower. Furthermore, even if we assume that Jesus viewed Mary Magdalene as being an important follower, that does NOT mean that Jesus viewed women as being EQUAL to men, nor does it show that Jesus supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men.
The HGU post points out that some wealthy women supported Jesus’ ministry with their money:
Joanna was another loyal follower. …. Joanna and other wealthy women bankrolled Jesus’ mission. That’s right. Jesus’ love movement was funded by women.“Four ways Jesus supported women’s equality.”
So far as I know, this is an accurate point about the historical Jesus. This point also does show that some of the women followers of Jesus were important to the success of his ministry.
However, the fact that Jesus accepted donations from wealthy women does NOT show that Jesus believed women to be EQUAL to men, nor does it show that Jesus supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men. Donald Trump is a sexist and a male chauvinist pig, but Trump would never turn down a generous donation to his campaign from a wealthy woman. So, this historical fact about the ministry of Jesus is interesting, but it is not relevant to the question at issue.
The author of the post points out that Jesus allowed women to be his disciples, and claims this was contrary to common practice:
Mary the sister of Martha (a different Mary than Mary Magdalene) is depicted sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to his teachings. While that might seem very insignificant, that posture is reserved for disciples listening to their Rabbis. In that time, Rabbis didn’t take on women as disciples. It just didn’t happen.“Four ways Jesus supported women’s equality.”
The Gospels all agree that Jesus had followers who were women, and some of those women are named in the Gospels, and some of them are part of stories that the Gospels tell about Jesus. So, I do not question the point that Jesus had some followers who were women.
However, it is not clear to me that “In that time, Rabbis didn’t take on women as disciples.” This MIGHT be true, given that the Jewish scriptures supported and promoted SEXISM, and given that Jehovah, the god of Israel, supported and promoted SEXISM. I’m just not familiar with various other examples of Rabbis in the first century and how they conducted themselves.
Since this HGU post provides ZERO historical evidence in support of this historical claim about how Rabbis conducted themselves in the first century, there is no good reason in the post to believe this broad historical claim. Apart from historical evidence about how several other Rabbis conducted themselves in the first century, I’m not willing to accept this broad historical claim just on the say-so of an unknown author of an HGU post that is part of an advertising campaign! NO SALE.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that this UNSUPPORTED historical claim about Rabbis is correct. Suppose that Jesus was the ONLY Rabbi in the first century who accepted followers (i.e. disciples/students) who were women. Having women call him “Master” and “Teacher” and sit silently at his feet listening intently to his every word might have puffed up Jesus’ male ego! There are many SEXIST male professors who enjoy having young college girls admire them and sit silently while they gas on and on about their area of specialization. That doesn’t make those professors feminists or supporters of the EQUALITY of women and men. Once again, even if this UNSUPPORTED historical claim were true, it would NOT show that Jesus promoted and supported the EQUALITY of women with men.
I have given several good reasons to believe that Jesus supported and promoted SEXISM and the INEQUALITY of women with men. I have now shown that three of the FOUR WAYS in which, according to the HGU post, Jesus supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men are based on dubious historical claims and/or FAIL to show this to be so.
We are now left with only one remaining consideration, the SECOND WAY in which Jesus allegedly supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men. If this point FAILS to show this conclusion, then we ought to reject that claim, and rather accept the opposite claim: Jesus supported and promoted SEXISM and the INEQUALITY of women with men.
The key idea is that Jesus talked to women about God, religion, and morality and that it was contrary to social norms in his time and place for men to have such conversations with women:
Jesus addressed women directly and publicly, something that was culturally confounding at the time. It even confused his own followers and closest friends. And he seemed to do it all the time with all kinds of women. Foreigners, enemies, widows, and sex workers, and in every recorded case, he connected with them personally with kindness and grace.“Four ways Jesus supported women’s equality.”
As a devout Jew, Jesus frequently talked about God, religion, and morality. The HGU post focuses on a story about Jesus talking to a woman at a well. Unsurprisingly, he talked about God, religion, and morality in that conversation with the woman at the well. The Gospels agree that Jesus had conversations with women. So, I do not question the point that Jesus had some conversations about God, religion, and morality with women. But as with the previous point (about Jesus allowing women to follow him, to be his students or disciples), it is UNCLEAR to me that other Jewish men never conversed with women about God, religion, and morality.
It MIGHT be the case that it was unheard of for Jewish men in that time to behave that way, given that Jehovah supported and promoted SEXISM, and given that the Jewish scriptures supported and promoted SEXISM. But I am not willing to accept this broad historical generalization just on the say-so of an HGU post that is basically a paid advertisement! The HGU post here has provided ZERO historical evidence in support of this broad claim about the behavior of Jewish men in the first century. So, the post gives us no good reason to believe this historical claim to be true.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that this UNSUPPORTED broad historical generalization is true, and that it was unheard of for Jewish men to have conversations with women about God, religion, and morality. Suppose that such behavior by Jesus was completely contrary to the social norms of his time and place. In that case, it does seem that Jesus was more admirable in that respect than most Jewish men of his day. Jesus would be showing women greater respect than most other Jewish men showed women.
However, showing more respect to women than other Jewish men generally showed to women would NOT imply that Jesus believed in the EQUALITY of women with men, and it certainly would not show that Jesus supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men.
Although the SECOND WAY is the most plausible of the four main points in this HGU post, it too FAILS to give us a good reason to believe that Jesus supported and promoted the EQUALITY of women with men.
Since we have already seen that the other of the FOUR WAYS all FAIL to give us a good reason to accept this claim about Jesus, and since I have provided a number of good reasons to believe that Jesus supported and promoted the INEQUALITY of women with men, reasonable readers will conclude that the central claim of the HGU post “Four ways Jesus supported women’s equality” is a FALSE CLAIM.