Are the Bible's teachings on women to be taken literally? Or should they be interpreted, and perhaps discounted, as vestiges of an ancient patriarchal culture? U.S. News asked a dozen biblical scholars, all female, to identify passages they consider to be the most problematic for modern American women. Here are the 10 most frequently cited.
Eve's punishment for eating the forbidden fruit: "In pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
In the Ten Commandments, the wife as property: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."
A test for women suspected of adultery: "If any man's wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him...and there is no witness against her since she was not caught in the act...then the man shall bring his wife to the priest...[who] shall make her take an oath, saying, 'If no man has lain with you, if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while under your husband's authority, be immune to this water of bitterness'... When he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself...[the water] shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall discharge, her uterus drop, and the woman shall become an execration among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be immune and be able to conceive children."
A rape victim's rights, Old Testament style: "If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, you shall...stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help...and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife." [If the woman is not engaged] "the man who lay with her shall give 50 shekels of silver to the young woman's father, and she shall become his wife."
The apostle Paul on husbands and wives: "Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church."
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
Paul on women's conduct in church: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak... And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home."
1 Timothy 2:13-15
Paul on why women should be silent in church: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided [she] continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty."
Paul on how to instruct women: "Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited."
1 Peter 3:1-7
The apostle Peter on women's conduct and status: "Wives...do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit... It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord."
The 144,000 who will be chosen at the Second Coming: "Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads...It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins."