Jesus and Feminism: Was He Against Women’s Rights?

Feminists have often criticized various religions for their treatment of women. They are absolutely right. Illustrations of religious abuse of females can be pointed out in the United States and internationally.

What many feminists don’t know is that Jesus would have been one of feminists’ greatest allies.

Look at the culture in the Middle East where Jesus lived. Jewish rabbis began every temple meeting with the words, “Blessed art thou, O Lord, for thou has not made me a woman.” Women were excluded from religious life and rarely taught the Torah in privacy. Yet Jesus publically included many women as his disciples, infuriating the religious leaders. He taught crowds of men and women and healed and performed miracles for women as readily as for men.

Jesus also challenged their sexist social laws. At that time there was a law allowing a husband to divorce his wife over anything, for example, dinner not being prepared on time. Imagine the insecurity and cruelty that this law brought to women. And, as you might expect, a wife could never divorce her husband. Jesus however announced that both woman and man had the right to divorce the other, but only on the grounds of adultery, and even then divorce was certainly outside of how God designed marriage to be.

Another social law of their day required stoning to death any woman caught in adultery. The man had no penalty. Knowing how Jesus treated women with dignity, they wanted to know how Jesus would handle this. So one day several men dragged a woman before Jesus, whom they had caught in bed with a man, probably with a friend of theirs. And they challenged Jesus to consent to her stoning. They knew they had Jesus in a no-win situation. If he gave her mercy, he was a wimp and an enemy of their law. If Jesus stoned her, then so much for his uniquely respectful treatment of women, and his teaching about mercy and forgiveness.

Jesus responded by saying that the person in the crowd who had never sinned should be the first one to throw a stone at her. It was probably Jesus’ statement, but also his presence that affected the crowd. One by one they walked away. Jesus turned to the woman who was repentant and totally forgave her, as only God could.

Author Philip Yancey comments, “For women and other oppressed people, Jesus turned upside down the accepted wisdom of his day. According to biblical scholar Walter Wink, Jesus violated the mores of his time in every single encounter with women recorded in the four Gospels.”

It makes sense that it was women who loved him and stood at the cross of Jesus, when most of the male disciples fled for their lives. And it was women to whom Jesus first appeared after rising from the dead after his crucifixion. This is remarkable. Jesus’ resurrection was proof of all of Jesus’ statements in which he identified himself as equal to God.

Though women had little standing in that culture, and no religious authority as spokespersons, Jesus gave them the role of informing others of his resurrection. Why? Maybe Jesus wanted to solidify that it was for the sins of women and for men that he came to die. Maybe Jesus wanted women and men to know that he offers them complete forgiveness and can give them direction, peace, and eternal life.

Copyright 2000 Used with permission.

15 thoughts on “Jesus and Feminism: Was He Against Women’s Rights?

  1. Kate

    I also like the story Hagar and Ishmael. Out in the desert without water, as Hagar sat weeping over the impending doom, God opened her eyes to see a well – a spring of life! Even when we are cast out, forgotten and unwanted, God does not forget us or overlook our needs. He is faithful.

  2. Law

    I’m not sure Christ would be on the side of most of today’s feminists. Why? Because MOST of Today’s feminists want ONLY women to feel better at the expense of men and the rest of the world. Christ didn’t support Men feeling better about themselves at the expense of Women and the rest of the world. He won’t support the opposite!!!!
    You have to remember, Jesus is about repairing the spirit first! Then the repair of Male or Female “vessel” follows. I’ll go as far as to say that MOST of today’s feminists are actually making themselves enemies of Christ. :)

    So, any feminist looking for vengeance for the supposed wrong-doings of men, best make sure you have the untarnished life that licenses you to pick up that proverbial Stone.

  3. Claire ColvinClaire Colvin

    Hi Law, It’s important to be very careful when referring to MOST of any group unless you have statistical surveys to back it up. I will agree that there are some feminists who are bent on vengeance, but I have not seen any studies that suggest that it is most. I’m curious, how would you define feminism?

    You said that “MOST of Today‚Äôs feminists want ONLY women to feel better at the expense of men” What do you mean by that? For example men are currently paid on average 23% more than women for the same work (source: Time). If businesses claimed that they could not afford to pay more in salaries then men would need to be paid 11.5% less and women would need 11.5% added to their salaries so that both men and women would make the same amount for the same work. Would you see that as women being equal “at the expense of men”? When there has been an inequality – in pay, in access, in voice, in representation – then one group has to give us some of that extra to make room for the other.

    I do not agree that today’s feminists are making themselves enemies of Christ. :) Throughout the Bible Jesus honours women in a way that way entirely countercultural.

  4. Law


    Thanks for responding. It’s appreciated. I’ll cut to the chase.

    To start quoting business stats when the issue of Paternity and Maternity are still imbalanced is flawed.

    To start asking me for stats when society pushes the concept of the Man picking up the tab is flawed. (Don’t worry, a lot of men don’t actually care. We just find it “interesting” not many women ever considers this point when they talk income.)

    Tell me, do we expect a white person to pay for a black person if both went out?
    Do we expect a black person just to get the better position simply because he/she is black but not as qualified as the competing white person?

    And MOST IMPORTANTLY: when a family suffers the tragedy of breaking up, why is there still an unfounded notion that the mother is somehow the better parent, when research actually shows that BOTH PARENTS ARE IMPORTANT to a child’s wellbeing?
    Some women quote the line “I carried the child for 9 months”.

    If you think that is a winning line, go and examine what Christ RESPONDED when A WOMAN said to him “blessed is the womb that bore you, blah blah blah”. :)

    Christ didn’t suck-up to MEN NOR WOMEN. In my humble opinion, Christ didn’t actually condone people sucking up to other people. My understanding of Christ is simply this: If there’s any sucking up to do, it should be to OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN.
    When the suck-ups came addressing him as “Good teacher”, how did he usually respond to them?

    Do we expect a black person to give up his or her seat to a white person? No! There was a time that was actually the LAW! But when we declared segregation (NOT RACISM) dead, the biased requirements went out the door with it.

    Are you ready to couple your quest for equal pay with advocating religiously to women to start splashing ludicrous cash on their men, much as their men do on them also and tell anyone woman who doesn’t do it to hang her head in shame, as we have been telling the men all these years?

    I believe a man should splash his cash on his woman. I also believe a woman should splash her cash on her man. I also believe both should be paid the same wage. That’s my definition of equality.

    So, if you find it acceptable to ignore ALL these other areas but only focus on salaries then there’s no point to take this discussion further.

    PS: Christ was GOD’s ALLY. If we followed what he taught, we wouldn’t need a lot of these “isms”.

  5. Law

    ps. I regard feminism, and a lot of other words ending in “ism” as a distraction from focusing on the word of GOD. I regard it as human beings looking for their own little labels to further SEPARATE themselves from others.

    They are little icons, at best. Lesser gods, really.

    Why not just call it JUSTICE, which really is what we’re all banging on about?!?
    You don’t see too many blacks desperate to label themselves as Africanists? Why? Cause there’s no need to give INJUSTICE ANY OTHER NAME, SURELY?
    I don’t know about you, but I’ll be content with being remembered as a man simply AGAINST INJUSTICE regardless of the sex or race of the oppressed or repressed.

  6. JamieJamie

    Hi Law, I think Jesus did address issues of injustice while here on Earth and God has always spoken against those who take advantage of others. But we also see that God was not just against the doers of injustice but went out of His way to care for those who experienced injustice. What ideas do you have of expressing God’s love in action for those who have suffered injustice?

  7. Law

    Hi Jamie

    Thanks for your response. I think you’ve misunderstood my posts. Indeed, Jesus DID address issues of injustice. What he gave to the oppressed was healing and a chance to grow in him to know God better. He didn’t arm them with plans of retribution. :)

    But if you look to Jesus to teach how to address injustice only then you’ll miss the main thing he came to impart on us – HOW TO LOVE. That’s why he distilled ALL things down to LOVE GOD, LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE LOVED.

    His reassurance is simple, each person focuses on living this basic nuget in their lives and we wouldn’t need many of these “-isms” :)

    Best way to help the oppressed? Love them and show them a way to true life that doesn’t even need them to consider retribution. God reserves vengeance for himself, though a lot of us like to hijack it from time to time. :)

  8. JamieJamie

    Love certainly is the key Law. How has God led you to love those who have been dealt with unjustly?

  9. Law

    Hi Jamie

    I’m glad we agree that love is the key. I won’t be answering the personal questions though :) My starting point was a stance to re-focus on the WORD. What good deeds my right hand does need not be told to the left… (Matt 6:3)
    To then answer your question would be worse than witholding the knowledge of the deed from my left :)

    Have a good weekend.

  10. Pingback: Is God a Humanist? | Jelani Consulting, LLC

  11. STEPcoach

    My favorite Jesus-surprise story is the woman at the well…He smashed so many Jewish traditional laws with that one, and, again used a woman to share His wonderful Gospel with others.

  12. cephash

    A major issue is that we men forget that we are called to love our wives as Christ loves the church (it’s right after that so-many-times-shrieked-against-text-about women submitting to husbands, headship, and all that)–and that love of Christ for the church went all the way to the cross. Speaking as a man, ouch.

  13. Elkay

    Cephash, I agree it is “super-human” for a husband to love his wife self-sacrificially as Christ loved the Church body but it can be done by first basking in Christ’s love for you and then allowing that love to flow through you to your wife. In other words, if you focus on how Christ gave Himself up for you, to the point of death on a Cross, because of how much He loves you, then you can more readily share that Godly love with your wife.

    As far as wives submitting to their husbands, may I give an analogy. When a “subject” in a Kingdom submits to the King, then the King becomes responsible for the well-being of that subject and must use all resources available to him to bring that about. Similarly, when a wife submits to her husband, then he becomes responsible for her over-all well-being and must use all resources available to him to bring that about. This has noting to do with relative worthiness, but is an “arrangement” God put in place for the sake of harmony (as opposed to having two “equals” in disputes).

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