3. Marriage and Woman
The definition of woman given by God in creating Eve and establishing the first marriage is "help meet" (Gen. 2:18). This is literally "as agreeing to him," or "his counterpart."1 Robert Youngs Literal Translation of the Holy Bible renders it "an helper-as his counterpart." R. Payne Smith pointed out that the Hebrew is literally, "a help as his front, his reflected image."2 The implication is of a mirrored image, a point made by St. Paul in I Corinthians 11:1-16; man was created in Gods image, and woman in the reflected image of God in man. In this passage, as Hodge noted, the principle is affirmed "that order and subordination pervade the whole universe, and is essential to its being."3 The covered head is a sign of being under authority to another person; hence, the man, who is directly under Christ, worships with uncovered head, the woman with a covered head. A man therefore who worships with covered head dishonors himself (I Cor. 11:1-4). The uncovered woman might as well be shorn or shaven, because it is as shameful for her to be uncovered as to be shaven (I Cor. 11:5-7). As Leon Morris notes with reference to vss. 8, 9, "Neither in her origin, nor in the purpose for which she was created can the woman claim priority, or even equality."4
Accordingly, St. Paul continued, "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels" (I Cor. 11:10). James Moffatt rendered "power on her head" as "a symbol of subjection," following thereby popular opinion rather than the Greek text. "Power on her head" means rather, as Morris and others have pointed out, "a sign of her authority."5 Because angels are witnesses, a godly witness must be rendered. To many, a serious contradiction seems to be involved here: first, St. Paul insists on subordination, and then, second, speaks of what seems to to be a sign of subordination as a sign of authority. This seeming contradiction arises from the anarchic concept of authority which is so deeply imbedded in mans sinful nature. All true authority is under authority, since God alone transcends all things and is the source of all power and authority. A colonel has authority because he is under a general, and his own authority grows as the power, prestige, and authority of those above him grow, and his unity with them in mind and purpose is assured. So too with the woman: Her subordination is also her symbol of authority. Very frequently, in various societies, prostitutes have been forbidden to dress themselves in the same manner as wives and daughters, for to do so
1. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis (Columbus, Ohio: Wartburg Press, 1942), p. 129f.
2. R. Payne Smith, "Genesis," in Ellicott, I, 21.
3. Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), p.206.
4. Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: (Eerdmans, 1958), p. 153.
5. Ibid., p. 153 f.
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would be to claim an authority, protection, and power they had forfeited. Thus, in Assyria an unmarried prostitute who covered her head was severely punished for her presumption.6 Similar laws existed in Rome. On the American frontier, the woman who was a wife or daughter carried an obvious authority and normally commanded the respect and protection of all men.
Men and women, St. Paul declared (I Cor. 11:11), are "mutually dependent. The one cannot exist without the other."7 "The one is not without the other, for as the woman was originally formed out of the man, so the man is born of the woman."8 Church councils very early censured long hair in men as a mark of effeminacy, as had the Romans before them. There is no evidence to support the usual portrayal of Christ and the apostles as long-haired men; the evidence of the age indicates very short hair.
To a woman, however, in all ages and countries, long hair has been considered an ornament. It is given to her, Paul says, as a covering, or as a natural veil; and it is a glory to her because it is a veil. The veil itself, therefore, must be becoming and decorous in a woman.9
It is thus with Biblical grounds that a womans hair is spoken of as her "crowning glory," and her delight in wearing it as an attractive crown is God-given when done within bounds, although the time some give to it is certainly not so.
The Biblical doctrine of woman thus reveals her as one crowned with authority in her "subjection" or subordination, and clearly a helper of the closest possible rank to Gods appointed vicegerent over creation. This is no small responsibility, nor is it a picture of a patient Griselda. Theologians have all too often pointed to Eve as the one who led Adam into sin while forgetting to note that her God-given position was such that counsel was her normal duty, although in this case it was clearly evil counsel. Men as sinners often dream of a patient Griselda who never speaks unless spoken to, but no other wife would please them less or bore them more. Martin Luther, who dearly loved his Katie, on one occasion vowed, "If I were to marry again, I would hew a meek wife out of stone: for I doubt whether any other kind be meek." His biographer, Edith Simon, properly asks, "How would he have fared with a meek wife?"10 The answer clearly is, not too well.
It is a common illusion that in mans primitive, evolutionary past,
6. J. M. Powis Smith, The Origin and History ol Hebrew Law (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1931, 1960), p. 231 f.
7. Charles Hodge, I Corinthians, p.211.
8. Ibid., p.212.
9. Ibid., p.213.
10. Edith Simon, Luther Alive (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1968), p.336.
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women were the merest slaves, used at will by primitive brutes. Not only is this evolutionary myth without foundation, but in every known society, the position of women, as measured in terms of the men and the society, has been a notable one. The idea that women have ever submitted to being mere slaves is itself an absurd notion. Women have been women in every age. In a study of an exceedingly backward society, the natives of Australia, Phyllis Kaberry has shown the importance and status of women to be a considerable one.11
Few things have depressed women more than did the Enlightenment, which turned woman into an ornament and a helpless creature. Unless of the lower class, where work was mandatory, the "privileged" woman was a useless ornamental person, with almost no rights. This had not been previously true. In 17th-century England, women were often in business, were highly competent managers, and were involved in the shipping trade, as insurance brokers, manufactures, and the like.
Up to the eighteenth century women usually figured in business as partners with their husbands, and not in inferior capacities. They often took full charge during prolonged absences of their mates. In some instances, where they were the brighter of the pair, they ran the show.12
A legal "revolution" brought about the diminished status of women; "the all too familiar view of women suddenly emerging in the nineteenth century from a long historical night or to a sunlit plain is completely wrong."13 A .knowledge of early American history makes clear the high responsibilities of the woman; New England sailing men could travel on two and three year voyages knowing that all business at home could be ably discharge by their wives.
The Age of Reason saw man as reason incarnate, and woman as emotion and will and therefore inferior. The thesis of the Age of Reason has been that the government of all things should be committed to reason. The Age of Reason opposed the Age of Faith self-consciously. Religion was deemed to be womans business, and, the more the Enlightenment spread, the more church life came to be the domain of women and children. The more pronounced therefore the triumph of the Age of Reason in any culture, the more reduced the role of women became. Just as religion came to be regarded as a useless but sometimes charming ornament, so too women were similarly regarded.
These ideas moved into the United States through the influence of Sir William Blackstone on law, who in turn was influenced by Englands
11. Phyllis M. Kaberry, Aboriginal Woman, Sacred and Profane (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1939).
12. Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia F. Farnham, M.D., Modern Woman, The Lost Sex (New York: Harper, 1947), p.130.
13. Ibid., p.421.
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Chief Justice Edward Coke, a calculating opportunist. As a result, the law books of the first half of the 19th-century showed woman in a diminished role. Three examples of this are revealing:
Walkers Introduction to American Law: The legal theory is, marriage makes the husband and wife one person, and that person is the husband. There is scarcely a legal act of any description that she is competent to perform . . . . In Ohio, but hardly anywhere else, is she allowed to make a will, if happily she has anything to dispose of.
Ropers Law of Husband and Wife: It is not generally known, that whenever a woman has accepted an offer of marriage, all she has, or expects to have, becomes virtually the property of the man thus accepted as a husband; and no gift or deed executed by her between the period of acceptance and the marriage is held to be valid; for were she permitted to give away or otherwise settle her property, he might be disappointed in the wealth he looked to in making the offer.
Whartons Laws: The wife is only the servant of her husband.14
There is an extremely significant clause in Ropers statement: "It is not generally known. . . ." The full implications of the legal revolution were not generally known. Unfortunately, they did come to be generally supported, by men. Even more unfortunately, the churches very commonly supported this legal revolution by a one-sided and twisted reading of Scripture. The attitude of men generally was that women were better off being left on a pedestal of uselessness. At a womens rights conference, one speaker answered these statements, Sojourner Truth, a tall, colored woman, prominent in anti-slavery circles and herself a former slave in New York state. She was 82 years of age, had a back scarred from whippings, could neither read nor write, but had "intelligence and common sense." She answered the pedestal advocates powerfully and directly, speaking to the male hecklers in the audience:
Wall, chilern, whan dar is so much racket dar must be somethin out of kilter. I tink dat twixt de niggers of de Souf and de womin at de Norf, all talkin bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But whats all dis here talkin bout?
Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gibs me any best place! And ant I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! . . .
I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ant I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man-when I could get it-and bear de lash as
14. Charles Neilson Gattey, The Bloomer Girls (New York: Coward-McCann, 1968), p.21.
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well! And ant I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen em mos all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mothers grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ant I a woman?
Den dat little man in black dar, he say womin cant have as much rights as men, cause Christ want a woman! Where did your Christ come from? ...
Whar did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothin to do wid Him.
Bleeged to ye for hearin me, and now ole Sojourner hant got nothin more to say.15
The tragedy of the womens rights movement was that, although it had serious wrongs to correct, it added to the problem, and here the resistance of man was in as large a measure responsible. Instead of restoring women to their rightful place of authority beside man, womens rights became feminism: it put women in competition with men. It lead to the masculinzation of women and feminization of men, to the unhappiness of both. Not surprisingly, in March, 1969, Paris courturier Pierre Cardin took a logical step in his menswear collection show: "the first garment displayed was a sleeveless jumper designed to be worn over high vinyl boots. In other words, a dress."16
Thus, the age of Reason brought in an irrational supremacy for men and has led to a war of the sexes. As a result, the laws today work, not to establish godly order, but to favor one sex or another. The laws of Texas reflect the older discrimination against women; the laws of some states (such as California) show a discrimination in favor of women.
To return to the Biblical doctrine, a wife is her husbands help-meet. Since Eve was created from Adam and is Adams reflected image of God, she was of Adam and an image of Adam as well, his "counter-part." The meaning of this is that a true help-meet is mans counterpart, that a cultural, racial, and especially religious similarity is needed so that the woman can truly mirror the man and be his image. A man who is a Christian and a businessman cannot find a helper in a Buddhist woman who believes that nothingness is ultimate and that her husbands way of life is a lower way. Cross-cultural marriages are thus normally a failure. Where we do find such marriages, they prove often on examination to be the union of two humanists whose backgrounds vary but whose faith unites them. Even then, such marriages have a high mortality. A man can identify character within his culture, but he cannot do more than identify the general character of another culture. Thus, a German reared in a Lutheran atmosphere can discern the subtle differences among women in his society, but if he marries a Moslem
15. Ibid., p. 105f.
16. Time, April 18, 1969, p.96.
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girl, he sees in her the general forms of Moslem feminine conduct rather than the fine shades of character, until too late to withdraw easily.
The Biblical doctrine shows us the wife as the competent manager who is able to take over all business affairs if needed, so that her husband can assume public office as a civil magistrate; in the words of Proverbs 31:23, he can sit "in the gates," that is, preside as a ruler or judge. Let us examine the women of Proverbs 31: 10-31, whose "price is far above rubies." Several things are clearly in evidence:
1. Her husband can trust her moral, commercial, and religious integrity and competence, (vss. 11,12,29-31).
2. She not only manages her household competently, but she can also manage a business with ability (vss.13-19, 24-25). She can buy and sell like a good merchant and manage a vineyard like an experienced farmer.
3. She is good to her family, and good to the poor and the needy (vss. 20-22).
4. Very important, "She openeth her mouth with wisdom: and in her tongue is the law of kindness" (vs. 26). The useless woman of the Age of Reason, and the useless socialite or jet set woman of today who is a show-piece and a luxury, can and does speak lightly, and as a trifler, because she is a trifle. The godly woman, however, has "in her tongue the law of kindness." People, men and women, who are not triflers avoid trifling and cheap, malicious talk. Loose talk is the luxury of irresponsibility.
5. She does not eat "the bread of idleness" (vs. 27); i.e., the godly woman is not a mere luxury and pretty decoration. She more than earns her keep.
6. "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her" (vs. 28).
Obviously, such a woman is very different from the pretty doll of the Age of Reason, and the highly competitive masculinized woman of the 20th century who is out to prove that she is as good as any man, if not better.
A Biblical faith will not regard woman as any the less rational or intelligent than man; her reason is normally more practically and personally oriented in terms of her calling as a woman, but she is not less intelligent for that.
Another note is added by King Lemuel in his description of the virtuous woman:
7. "Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who reveres the LORD will be praised" (vs. 30, Berkeley Version).
Nothing derogatory towards physical beauty is here intended, and,
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elsewhere in Scripture, especially in the Song of Solomon, it is highly appreciated. The point here is that, in relation to the basic qualities of a true and capable help-meet, beauty is a transient virtue, and clever, charming ways are deceitful and have no value in the working relationships of marriage.
Important thus as the role of a woman is as mother, Scripture presents her essentially as a wife, i.e., a help-meet. The reference is therefore not primarily to children but to the Kingdom of God and mans calling therein. Man and wife together are in the covenant called to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over it.
There are those who hold that procreation is the central purpose of marriage. Certainly the command to "increase and multiply" is very important, but a marriage does not cease to exist if it be childless. St. Augustine wrongly held that I Timothy 5:14 required procreation and defined children as the basic purpose of marriage, and many hold to this opimon.1 But St. Paul actually said that he was requiring that the younger women, or widows, specifically marry and have children rather than seeking a religious vocation (I Tim. 5:11-15); this is very different from a definition of marriage as procreation. Luther for some time held to the belief that marriage served to provide for procreation and to relieve concupiscence. (Augustine had limited sexual relations to "the necessities of production.")18 Edith Simon calls attention to the change in Luthers thinking on the subject:
Before Luther had himself cast off celibacy, he had condemned it merely as a source of continual temptation and distraction to those who were not equal to perpetual chastity -- in other words, his attitude then was still basically orthodox, accounting chastity as the higher state. Upon his own experience of marriage, however, that attitude was changed dramatically to one more positive. Perpetual chastity was bad. Only in marriage were human beings able to acquire the spiritual health which they had used to seek in the cloister. So the strange thing was that before he had ever experienced sexual release himself, Luther saw marriage as a primarily physical affair, and afterwards saw its benefits as primarily spiritual -- evidently not for want of physical communion.19
God Himself defined Eves basic function as a help-meet; important as motherhood is, it cannot take priority over Gods own declaration.
17. See Jean-Marie Vaissiere, Tile Family, Part I, translated and adapted by Canon Scantlebury (no publisher or date), pp.73-101.
18. ibid., p. 135n.
19. Edith Simon, Luther Alive, p. 337. Simon obviously means "celibacy" where she speaks of "chastity."