Many readers of the New Testament often imagine that women’s lives in the first and second centuries were highly restricted. While women were definitely not considered the equals of men in wealth and politics, a number of legal and social norms contradict modern expectations. That’s why certain myths about women in the Bible need to be laid to rest. Here are some that Susan E. Hylen offers us.[1]

First, women were totally controlled by their fathers and husbands. But according to Roman law, women were under the legal authority of their father until he died. But the same was true for men. When a father died, his firstborn son was at the top of the list as the heir apparent. However, if he had no sons, then his daughter was authorized to become the legal heir. This was mostly controlled by custom than law.

Second, it is thought that women were not allowed to own property. It is estimated that women during the beginning of the Christian era owned almost one-third of the property in any estate. It was considered a normal part of everyday life. It was also considered useful as a dowry when considering marriage. Although she shared that with her husband. If she divorced him or he divorced her, she continued to own the property.

Thirdly, it is often assumed that women did not exercise leadership during this time. In the Apostle Paul’s salutations at the end of his letter to the Romans, he lists ten influential women who were part of the work there in Rome. It is also documented that many great building projects were undertaken, not by the state, but by individual wealthy women. They offered these gifts to promote the beauty and stature of their city. That is why many of the statues of that day were dedicated to women.

Fourthly, one gets the impression that most women were always subordinate to the men in their lives. History tells us that many women advocated for their political position with people who had access to power. Letters from that period show women sending instructions regarding agricultural work, the purchase or sale of goods, and the care of children. Personal details show that no matter how powerful a man might be or become, behind him was the constant influence of a wise and perceptive woman.

Fifthly, women’s leadership was accepted in private but not in public. While it was well-known that the woman of the house ran the household affairs without objection from their husbands. When going to the market, a person found that many women were owners and were in charge of bringing and selling goods in the market. They also gained a great reputation as astute businesswomen. In many cases, men sought the opinion of women before making a decision that was crucial to their status, business, or estate.

All we have to do is observe that in the Bible, Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachael, Esther, Ruth, Delilah, Rahab, Mary, Phoebe, and many others down history through have influenced significant changes in the world. In our own culture, Mother’s Day was instituted by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 before Father’s Day was urged by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924. And how many times have you heard athletes refer to the mother as the guiding light in their life? So, let’s put these myths to rest and accept reality. Even in the word’s woman and women, the woman comes first.  – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Biblical Archeology Review, pp. 55-56

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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