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Role of Women in Judaism

Dsicuss about the Sociology for Role of Women in Judaism and Christianity.

In the various religions of the world, different perspectives are held by each religion on the role of women in the society (Bach 2013). On investigating through the cultural changes between the religions, both similarities and deviations can be noticed in the role of women. The viewpoint of women has changed considerably , than what it was before. The orthodox beliefs and practices against women has been reduced to a considerate level.

Judaism and Christianity are the two major religions of the world. Judaism is an ancient religion which is monotheistic in nature. Their holy book is Torah whereas, their beliefs , history and traditions are all recorded in the Hebrew Bible (Balkin, Watts and Ali 2014). Christianity is the world’s most popular religion which holds the highest population in the world. It is an old religion with the Bible as the holy Bible. There is a noticeable transformation between the change in traditional beliefs and practices with respect to the role of women in these two religions (Brouwer 2013). The aim of this essay is to analyse these noticeable changes that would help in knowing the different viewpoints regarding the role of women in the society, based on the beliefs of these two religions.

The role of women in Judaism is considered by the Hebrew Bible , by custom beliefs and by some non religious factors. According to the old beliefs, as mentioned in the Bible, women in Judaism were not allowed for public appearance (Desai, Chugh and Brief 2014). Though there are various exceptions to the various prophetess and other important figures in earlier times, where there was no objection against their free appearance in public. Marriage in Jewish religion and the family laws related to the religion earlier held a superior position for the women than men. A husband had the authority to divorce his wife, but a wife did not have the authority to divorce her husband without his consent. Re-marriage was allowed only to husband whose wife had died and whereas, a widow was not allowed to re marry. With respect to marriage and divorce authoruities of women in Judaism, one of the critical practices followed in Judaism is Agunah (Drazin 2014). In this custom, a husband who had left on a jaourney and has not returned for many years, or a man who has gone for a battle and has no news so far, is unable to grant a divorce to his wife. According to the jewish traditions, it is quite necessary for the husband to grant his wife  aget or dicorce on his own will. Without a get, remarriage is forbidden for teh wife. Her children would be considered as a mamzer or bastard. In these circumstances, the women tend to suffer in severe conditions. It is considered as one of those sevre punishments for the women where they are left on the mercy of others (Golding 2015). In order to recover these women from such situations, it is considered as a duty or the halakic authority to grant these women the permission to remarry by allowing her the get from her husband.

Role of Women in Christianity

There were various beliefs and cultural differences found between male and female that shows how females were considered as submissive to men. With regards to the religious practices, the women in Judaism were allowed to visit the temple only once in a year. Specific practices were only  regarded to the men, whereas, the female were not allowed to perform (Lampert 2013). Economically, the women were dependent on the men. Women did both inherit any property the. If they had no brothers, and they inherited their fathers property, in order to lawfully inherit it, she had to marry someone from the tribe.

In Talmudic times, various references and quotes were made it the book of the Jews, that described how respecting , loving and caring for women are the basic duties of men. Manhood does not lie in suppressing the women. There are many examples of women of those times, who have kept a strong influence on their husbands .

In medieval ages, women in the Jewish family had three factors that such as religious, economic and the situation of the non Jewish society, which shows that the status of women had changed and had risen than what it was before. People were more liberal in nature in the medieval ages, where they taught  the women various religious teachings and reading Torah, all that was prohibited in the past. The orthodox beliefs of the past regarding the religious practices has followed some leniency while being addressed to the women in the society.

A new aspect had been introduced in the middle ages, known as synagogue where the women participated in the Jewish practices publically. In synagogues, women were provided with a separate section where they were separated from the men. They were allowed to wear such clothes that would cover their body and do not act as a distraction for men. They had a belief  that women tend to raise impure thoughts in men while praying. Marriage was considered as one of the most holy relations of life which laid great emphasis on the holy bond between the partners. Female menstruation cycles were considered as expressions of sins or demonic character, and hence, greater strictures were maintained against this.

In present day of life, orthodox Judaism is present that stets the present views and beliefs of the Jewish practice. It claims that men and women are both different in nature who have different duties and responsibilities to perform towards the religious practices. Contradicting to this statement, some orthodox belief holds that there are no differences between the two genders with regard to religious belief, but with regard to the structural, cultural and social aspects of life. Various orthodox Jewish women have been working towards the change in the religious beliefs of the people, that holds a drawback for women of the society.  Nowadays, in many orthodox synagogues, women do not maintain a different section that was hidden earlier from the view of men with the fear of being distracted. This has been changed with the sections made in the hall itself, where women and men sit on the two sides separately.

In the modern orthodox Judaism, modesty has been followed in the dress code for women. The Jewish members sanctioned separate prayer groups, so that girls are not prohibited from reading the holy books of the religion. Earlier, women were not considered as a witness to some incident that had taken place (Plaskow 2015). This hurt the self respect of the females of the society as their existence were held inappropriate in addressing some facts. Recently such traditions has been subjected to change. Now women could be equally addressed as witness in the eyes of law.

The Judaism beliefs of the people are now subjected to change as reform Judaism where the women are given a higher post in the society, than they had earlier. A Reconstructionist group of the Jews has been framed that help the women to raise their position in the society. The prohibitions that were faced by them earlier has been removed like no education, prohibition to reading religious books, prohibited to various social customs etc. Nowadays the Jewish women have changed with the change in the mindset of the people. They re not considered as the one who are impure or are only fit for getting married.

Christian views regarding women vary considerably, and they have varied more in the past two thousand years. There has been a variation in the thoughts and beliefs of the people regarding the women of the society (Lindsey 2015). There has been a gender biased hierarchy in the religion since its evolution. This has been claimed by the Complementarians and traditionalists till the present. In Christianity, a woman has been placed under the man’s authority at various places, where they had been excluded from the church leadership and other positions that had been under the authority of only men.

According to the Christian  Egalitarians, the interpretation of the word of god has been quite different in nature than what has been believed. There has been no differentiation done between the two genders, and that everyone is fair and equal in the eyes of god. They believe that Jesus Christ abolished the discrimination which had been taught earlier, and that there are discrimination in the eyes of god regarding to any secondary discriminations done based on caste, creed, sex, race, slavery, etc (Maitland 2014).

On the other hand, Complementarians or the traditionalist have interpreted the Bible in a different manner. They think that equality has been mentioned in the text of god being available to everyone on the day of salvation. According to this group , both in the old and the new testament, there has been a priority noticed of the males over the females (Plaskow  2014).

In the early age, from the very start of Christianity, women have been noticed as important members of the movements generated by Jesus Christ. It has been mentioned in the gospels of new testament that Jesus was always found speaking to women openly and publically as his children, in spite of the cultural backwardness in those times.  According to the way of preaching s of Jesus, even his followers followed the same rule. Women were considered as an important part of the society. When Paul started to spread the teachings of Jesus, his letters had mentioned the names of women that were of high importance. With the prediction of the art made in those times, it could be seen that women were a part of the ceremonies which took place in those times. They were not unaware of the customs and rejoices in those early Christian time.


The Egilatarian and the Complementarian approach differ in a great extent on the context of  the beliefs of Christianity (Johnson 2013). Their interpretations are totally different from each other, which thereby, raises a sharp distinction between the beliefs of the people.  According to the conservative Christian theology, god has prophesized that men must rule over women. This us seen as a form of compromise that has formed between the two. Yet, this is not the true case, which had been rectified. Its is shown that equality must be maintained between the two and no one has the right to overpower the other or suppress the other.

Complementarians are of the belief that Christians must hold men as superior creations as Jesus Christ is subjected as the son of god, and incarnate god as the male human being. Egalitarians argue on this nite, stating that god is not gendered. Hence, there is no biased  in terms of gender. The gender biased  had been present in the early ages, whereas, in the modern period these customs have reduced.

Many gospels in the Bible describe how Jesus has stated women in a respectable status, where suppressing of the women by a male is strictly prohibited. Various Bible versus from Paul’s letters have been noticed that has supported the idea of women having a different status than men (Thomas 2015).

In the medieval ages, Christian convent helped the women to gain knowledge, education, literacy and learning, thereby playing a more religious roles . Post reformation revolutionist changes have been seen in the religion, which had included political matters within itself, thereby aligning power with the women.

According to the modern feminists, there has been some challenging changes in the traditional beliefs of Christianity . These feminists create more liberal and free views that are attached to the theologies related to women of the society. They tend to support LGBT rights and abortion, which was considered as highly punishable and prohibited act earlier (Meyers 2013).

With all the facts that has been collected in the ages earlier, the clear text comes in front now, which states that women had played a vital role in Christianity . They gave served the prophets, teachers, led churches at home, spiritual gifts  and  had died for Jesus Christ just as the other men had done (Shoemaker 2014). Nowadays, Christian women are away from any kind of restrictions or suppressions , that had been laid on them earlier. The Complementarians have been proved wrong in many places, where they had been facing forceful suppressions and humiliated treatment from the male gender.  

Conclusion

Religious beliefs varies among the people  and their views different among each other. These variations in beliefs has been noticed in all the factors of life. One of the most crucial and important diversification of views is held upon the gender discrimination among all the religions. Christianity and Judaism are the two ancient religions of the world, where, Christianity holds the highest percentage of believers in the world (Wasserfall 2015). Both in Christianity and Judaism, gender biased nature towards the male gender has been noticed in the early ages, whereas, nothing as such has been mentioned in their holy book. Women had undergone various suppressions and insults under the name of religions. Numerous ideas and beliefs have been subjected by the advocates of the religion in order to show that male gender is dominant over the female gender.

The women were prohibited of some acts that were not justified, moreover, they were treated as child bearers. Statements have been framed against them that shows how low the society took female to be. With the change in the thinking, ideologies, theories, and perceptions of the people in both the religions, there had been a considerable change in the status of the women in the society. Women have gained their respect and status up to  considerable extent, where they performed various activities that were considered as sin before. Women has been powered with positions, religious platforms, leaderships, respect, knowledge, education and many more transitions from the society which were only a dream earlier. According to Wiesner-Hanks (2014), Christianity and Judaism has some severe theories and ideologies within itself that creates dissimilarities in the society and thereby leading to stark discrimination between the gender .

Reference

Bach, A., 2013. Women in the Hebrew Bible: A reader. Routledge.

Balkin, R.S., Watts, R.E. and Ali, S.R., 2014. A conversation about the intersection of faith, sexual orientation, and gender: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim perspectives. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92(2), pp.187-193.

Brouwer, E., 2013. Jewish American Women in an Orthodox world: The Literary Representation of a Struggle for Selfhood.

Desai, S.D., Chugh, D. and Brief, A.P., 2014. The implications of marriage structure for men’s workplace attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors toward women. Administrative Science Quarterly, 59(2), pp.330-365.

Drazin, I., 2014. Mysteries of Judaism. Gefen Publishing House.

Golding, N., 2015. Jewish Feminism. Lulu. com.

Johnson, P., 2013. History of the Jews. Hachette UK.

Lampert, L., 2013. Gender and Jewish Difference from Paul to Shakespeare. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lindsey, L.L., 2015. Gender roles: A sociological perspective. Routledge.

Maitland, S., 2014. A Map of the New Country (RLE Women and Religion): Women and Christianity. Routledge.

Meyers, C., 2013. Rediscovering Eve: ancient Israelite women in context. Oxford University Press on Demand.

Plaskow, J., 2014. Anti-Judaism in Feminist Christian Interpretation. In Judith Plaskow: Feminism, Theology, and Justice (pp. 83-95). Brill.

Plaskow, J., 2014. Anti-Judaism in Feminist Christian Interpretation. In Judith Plaskow: Feminism, Theology, and Justice (pp. 83-95). Brill.

Plaskow, J., 2015. The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics, 1972-2003. Beacon Press.

Shoemaker, R.B., 2014. Gender in English Society 1650-1850: The Emergence of Separate Spheres?. Routledge.

Thomas, A., 2015. Introduction. In Reading Women in Late Medieval Europe(pp. 1-24). Palgrave Macmillan US.

Wasserfall, R. ed., 2015. Women and water: Menstruation in Jewish life and law. Brandeis University Press.

Wiesner-Hanks, M., 2014. Christianity and sexuality in the early modern world: Regulating desire, reforming practice. Routledge.

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