Plato’s Spectacles: How Greek Philosophy has Distorted our View of Women in the Bible

The following presentation was shared at Emmanuel Bible College on March 3, 2015:

Plato’s Spectacles

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Plato’s Spectacles


10 Myths Used to Keep Women in Subjection, And the Truth to Set Them Free

Myth 1:
Adam named the animals in Eden; this means that he had authority over them. Adam named Eve; this means that he must have had authority over her also.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

“Male and female” both had dominion over the animals. This role was not Adam’s alone. The Bible does not say anywhere that “naming equals authority.” Some theologians have assigned this significance to the act of naming. The Bible itself does not.

Myth 2:
Eve was created to be Adam’s “help-mate.” This means that she was designed to be his assistant, and to follow his lead.

The expression “help-mate” does not occur in the Bible. It is a misunderstanding of the old English language used in the King James translation. Eve was a “help” that was “meet” for Adam. The term “meet” was an adjective used to modify the noun “help.” It simply meant that Eve, as Adam’s help, was “suitable” or “comparable” to him. Furthermore, the term “help” as it is used in the Bible is not an indication of subordination. The same term in Hebrew (ezer) is used repeatedly of God.

Myth 3:
God made Adam, the man, before he made Eve. Being made first, chronologically speaking, is a clear indication of authority.

The creation order for living things on earth, according to the Genesis account, proceeds as follows: aquatic life, birds, livestock, creatures that move along the ground, wild animals, humanity–male then female (Genesis 1:20-27, NIV). In this order of creation, animal life is made before humanity. If chronology equals rank, human beings should be subject to the animals. If, on the other hand, we assume that humanity should have dominion over the animals because we were created last, and are therefore the pinnacle of God’s creation, the woman would be God’s crowning achievement and should have dominion over all. Assuming that the chronological order of creation equals rank, however, is not an idea that can be found in the Bible. It is merely a human assumption, one the Apostle Paul appears to challenge in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.  For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God” (1 Corinthians 11:11-12, NKJV).  Some commentators suggest that chronology does not mean rank, until we come to men and women.  Once again, this is a human assumption; it is not an idea found in the biblical text itself.

Myth 4:
God gave Adam authority over Eve in the creation story; therefore all men have authority over all women, for all time.

The Bible nowhere states that God gave Adam authority over Eve. Human inference has led some to this conclusion (see Myths 1-3), but the idea does not originate in God’s Word. In fact, the first mention of any kind of authority structure between men and women occurs only after humanity has fallen into a sinful state (Genesis 3:16).

Myth 5:
Jesus chose only men to be his disciples. Therefore only men should be leaders and teachers in the church.

Jesus chose only Jewish men to be his disciples. Based on the spurious logic of Myth #5, we should only allow Jewish men to be leaders in the church. Yet Paul tells us in his epistle to the Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28, NKJV).

Furthermore, the Bible includes evidence of women functioning as leaders and teachers in both the Old and New Testaments:

– “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4, NIV).

– “And I commend you to Phebe our sister — being a ministrant of the assembly that [is] in Cenchrea — that ye may receive her in the Lord, as doth become saints, and may assist her in whatever matter she may have need of you — for she also became a leader of many, and of myself” (Romans 16:1-2, YLT).

– “Greet Andronicus and Junia (female name), my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was” (Romans 16:7, NIV).

– “Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:24-26, NIV).

Myth 6:
God chose Deborah to be a leader in Israel only because there were no suitable men available.

As with earlier myths, the notion that God chose Deborah because he could not find a suitable man does not appear anywhere in the biblical text. It is yet another example of human assumption wrongly confused with God’s Word.

Myth 7:
The only reason Priscilla could teach a man the gospel was because she did so under the authority of her husband.

This qualification is not found anywhere in the Bible. It has once again been supplied by human inference.

Myth 8:
The Bible says that wives must “be subject” to their husbands. It also says that wives “ought to be” subject to their husbands just as the church is to Christ.

These phrases are contained in some English translations of the Bible (e.g. Ephesians 5:22 & 24, NASB). They do not appear in the earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. They have been added—allegedly for clarification–by the translators. These additions actually change the meaning of the text. Since they do not appear in the Bible’s original language, they are not, in fact, the Bible.

Myth 9:
The Bible clearly states, “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12, NKJV).

As with Myth #8, this is an English translation. The Greek verb translated “to have authority over” is “authentein.” In the language of the Greek Septuagint, a noun form of this word, “authentas,” is used to describe parents who commit acts of ritual violence in the worship of false gods (Wisdom of Solomon 12:3-6). Between the years 60 B.C. and 100 A.D., the word is used repeatedly by historians such as Diodorus Siculus and Flavius Josephus. If their uses of the word are applied to 1 Timothy 2:12, we have the following English translations:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to support violent actions against a man.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to perpetrate sacrilege against a man.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to perpetrate violence against a man.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to commit crimes against a man.[1]

Notable contextual information to help with translation: Paul is concerned about false teachers (1 Timothy 1:3), who give heed to deceiving spirits (1 Timothy 4:1), and forbid marriage and command people to abstain from certain foods (1 Timothy 4:3). Priests of an ascetic cult in the area of Ephesus (where Timothy taught) were false teachers, were not allowed to marry, had to abstain from certain foods, and were subject to ritual castration in the service of their goddess.[2]

Mounting evidence suggests that the traditional translation of authentein (e.g. to have authority) is incorrect. This tradition began with St. Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Latin in the 4th century A.D.. It was Jerome who said, “a wife is classed with the greatest evils.”[3] Jerome also encouraged celibacy and prescribed ritual fasts for his followers, ironically much like the false teachers Paul is evidently warning against.

Myth 10:
We need men to “step up” and fulfill God’s call on their lives as leaders in the church and in their homes.

Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ” (Jesus, Matthew 23:10, NASB).


End Notes

1 Thesaurus Linguae Graeca database, as cited in Wilshire, L. (2010). Insight into Two Biblical Passages: The Anatomy of a Prohibition, 1 Timothy 2:12, the TLG Computer, and the Christian Church.

2 Edwards, B. (2013). Let My People Go: A Call to End the Oppression of Women in the Church, Revised and Expanded.

3 Against Jovinianus, Book 1, §28, as published by