Women Are Not Inferior

Man as Male and Female, by Paul K. Jewett (Eerdmans, 1975, 200 pp., $2.95 pb), is reviewed by Cheryl Forbes, editorial associate, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Women are by nature born to obey. Right? So said John Calvin. And for centuries the Church has assumed that the Bible said so as well, from Genesis (woman made from man) through the New Testament (Paul’s admonition that women keep silent in the Church). The reason for this subordination of women traditionally has been, whether we want to admit it or not, the assumption that the female sex is inferior to the male. Jewett, professor of systematic theology at Fuller Seminary, shows where that has been asserted by Christians from Augustine and Aquinas to Luther and Calvin. As Virginia Mollenkott says in the foreword, “he is the first evangelical theologian to face squarely the fact that if woman must of necessity be subordinate, she must of necessity be inferior.” For that admission alone Jewett deserves praise.

He also deserves praise for his thorough, painstaking, scholarly approach to the theological issues. As he says, we cannot solve the “woman question” (a condescending phrase that he merely quotes) by talking of women apart from men. God created male and female in his image, and Jewett’s emphasis on the mutuality of the sexes goes far to provide balance and wholeness on a divisive issue. In emphasizing Genesis 1:27 he combats the view that man alone was made in the image of God and that woman, because she was made from man, must therefore always have a male head.

This emphasis on both male and female as necessary to a unified theology of man may not please those women’s liberationists who prefer—wrongly, I believe—to discuss woman totally apart from man. ...

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