Portrayal of women in literature
Negative ideas of women?
The predominance of male authors
Until comparatively recently, the majority of published writers were men and the portrayal of women in literature was inevitably one-sided. In the ancient world literacy was severely limited, and the majority of those who could write were male. However, the contribution of women to oral culture should not be underestimated – in folk songs, stories and nursery rhymes – a tradition which eventually fed into written culture.
The influence of Judaeo-Christian teaching
Western literature has been seriously affected by a distortion of Judaeo-Christian teaching about women.
‘there is neither ... male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus
' (Galatians 3:28
He commanded men to
‘love their wives as their own bodies' (Ephesians 5:28
TNIV), ‘just as Christ
loved the church and gave himself up for her'.
- In spite of references to women being silent in church (notably in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35), Paul is quite prepared to list women in church leadership amongst his commendations: Romans 16:1-16 includes a deaconess and perhaps an apostle amongst the female ‘saints' and ‘fellow-workers'.
However, by the time Chaucer was writing, the Judeo-Christian approach had been significantly re-interpreted.
Some people are inclined to blame St Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), who saw fallen sexuality as a key component of original sin. Augustine, like Paul, is often misunderstood, but he was undoubtedly influenced by his own youthful struggles with lust. He also propounded the view that Mary, the mother of Jesus, remained a perpetual virgin – this view has been maintained by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, although there is mention in the New Testament of Jesus having siblings.
By the Middle Ages, it was commonly accepted that Eve was principally to blame for the disobedience that led to the fall of humanity. Greek ideas had replaced Jewish in Christian thinking, including the notion that the soul was good but the body evil. Heretical though this might have been, it didn't stop sexuality being regarded as somehow evil. One of the few recorded medieval women writers, the mystic Margery Kempe, aspired to celibacy even within marriage.
Madonna or whore?
Unsurprisingly, medieval stereotypes of women were quite polarised. Women were seen either as saints capable of rejecting their sexuality totally or as the very embodiments of temptation. The cult of the Virgin Mary grew alongside the view that, although child-bearing was an unfortunate necessity, sex was not really a good thing and women were dangerous temptresses.
The courtly love tradition (See Women in literature: Courtly love ethic) might be seen as giving women an elevated status. Few women however had the status of ‘lady'. And some of those who did were rather ambiguous morally: the great romances of Lancelot and Guinevere, or Tristram and Isolde, were based on what were essentially adulterous relationships, that resulted in personal or social tragedy.
Although women feature strongly in Chaucer's earlier works, such as The Boke of the Duchess and Troilus and Criseyde, we only find three women on the pilgrimage described in The Canterbury Tales:
- The Wife of Bath
- The Prioress
- ‘Another nun' who accompanies her but is hardly mentioned again.
The two principal women reflect the only ways that women at the time could achieve independence and status: in the Church or in a trade. The Wife of Bath represents those whose skills, such as weaving, gave them financial independence, though Chaucer's character seems to have grown wealthy mainly by marrying a series of rich old men.
It is tempting to see the Wife as a champion of female rights, and her Tale brings out the idea that women should have maistrie over men, but the Wife is of course a character in a story written by a man. She has had five husbands, like the woman of Samaria who is challenged by Jesus (in John 4:17-18), 'withouten oother compaignye in youthe'. Her fifth husband, whom she married for love rather than riches, proved to be less compliant – and very well read. She claims to have put him in his place eventually, but Chaucer enjoys making the Wife recount (and try to refute) all the misogynistic tales with which he has assaulted her.
More on Chaucer's women: Some critics have seen a debate within The Canterbury Tales on marriage and on the respective roles of husband and wife. The Tales associated with this debate, apart from the Wife of Bath's, include the Clerk's Tale, the Merchant's Tale and the Franklin's Tale. The Miller's Tale might also be considered.
Chaucer's Wife of Bath may be a stereotype – the harridan or ‘shrew' is found in other medieval writings (such as Noah's wife, in some of the Mystery plays).
- By the 16th century, there were other stereotypes, fostered by the courtly love tradition and by the emergence of the sonnet and Arcadian idylls. The idealised ladies of most sonnets or the shepherdesses of the pastoral verses bear little resemblance to real women.
- By the time of Shakespeare one can detect a note of cynicism – in Sonnet 130 he writes ‘my mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun...' and proceeds to turn the conventional image of the mistress on its head. This woman's breath ‘reeks'.
Women in Shakespeare's plays
The resurgence of drama in the late 16th century allowed for the presentation of female roles on stage, and these reach their climax in the women portrayed by Shakespeare and Webster in particular.
- Women were acted by young men, which meant there were fewer parts written for them and they often had less to say – in the earlier plays, anyway. Romeo speaks much more than Juliet. There is also an unusually high proportion of single fathers in the plays.
- Whether the result of good actors or his own desire for more complexity, Shakespeare's later heroines have plenty to say for themselves. Interestingly, some of them are most articulate when disguised as men, e.g.
- Rosalind (As You Like It)
- Viola (Twelfth Night)
- Portia (The Merchant of Venice)
- ‘Infinite variety' seems to sum up the various female roles – it is hard to make generalisations about Beatrice, Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra and Desdemona. Most are seen as wives or daughters, but nieces are often more articulate, and there is at least one dominant mother: Volumnia in Coriolanus.
- Webster's women characters, notably the Duchess of Malfi and Vittoria Corombona, are amongst the first to be overtly sexual, rather than just the objects of another's desire.
The seventeenth century
There is a wide range of female representation in the literature of the era, although the common stereotypes are still prevalent:
- Mistresses still appear to be coy, in the poems of such varied writers as Donne, Herrick and Marvell.
- Much has been written about Milton's portrayal of Eve, in Paradise Lost. Superficially, he could often sound misogynistic, but closer readings show much more complexity in his treatment of the first woman. In his time, Milton was actually accused of being too progressive, thanks to pamphlets he wrote on divorce, and it is important to separate Milton, the child of his time, from the thinker who pushed boundaries philosophically and imaginatively. His Eve had a human dignity that reflected Milton's deeply held Christian values, imperfect though her presentation may be by modern standards.
- Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is also part of the established literary canon, and has had immense influence; it is easily overlooked that Part Two of the book is about Christiana, the wife of the original pilgrim. She has her own moral strength, even though she has male protection for much of her pilgrimage. The established canon of literature largely overlooked female writers, but two at least from this period are now taken seriously:
- Emilia Lanier (1569-1645)
- Aphra Behn (1640-89)
Women on the stage
After 1660, female actors were allowed on stage in England, and sexual intrigue became the staple of the theatre. Amongst the stereotypes of Restoration comedy were sexually voracious young widows and older women. The witty, intelligent heroines of the 18th century comedies of manners follow a tradition extending from Wycherley and Congreve through to Goldsmith and Sheridan. This tradition also drew on the stereotypes of the Italian Commedia dell'arte, such as the witty servant girl, the bawdy wench, the dutiful daughter, the disobedient daughter and the unattainable angel – stereotypes which have survived to this day in some Hollywood presentations.
The rise of the novel
Prose narrative emerged in the 18th century novel as a dominant literary form, and with it a much more nuanced portrayal of women.
- Initially, the novel depicted women as viewed by men, and the typical heroines were either paragons of virtue or of vice: for every Pamela Andrews or Clarissa Harlowe there was a Moll Flanders or a Fanny Hill.
- Where Defoe, Richardson and Fielding had cleared a path, women novelists soon followed. Fanny Burney, Ann Radcliffe and supremely Jane Austen depicted life and society from a woman's perspective.
- Women in Dickens have been seen as stereotypes: the harridans, the silly little wives, the femme fatales, but generalisations are dangerous. In his late novel Our Mutual Friend, Lizzie Hexham is a rounded, psychologically believable character.
- Thackeray's Vanity Fair is noted for the strength of its female roles.
- Women come into their own supremely in the novels of the Brontë sisters. In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë depicts a woman who takes control of her own destiny – in a way that none of Jane Austen's heroines do, with the possible exception of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park.
- Two of Mrs Gaskell's novels, Ruth and Mary Barton, focus on the economic realities of women within society.
- George Eliot believed that duty supplied personal purpose and meaning, which is reflected in many of the female characters in her novels, who are notable for their psychological complexity.
The modern perception
Over the last 150 years, novelists, whether male or female, have explored the psychology and social roles of women with increasing depth:
- Thomas Hardy, D H Lawrence, E M Forster and Virginia Woolf have all made significant contributions to the perception of women in the literary canon, particularly in challenging traditional perceptions about the ‘purity' of women.
- The influence of other European writers during the 19th century and subsequently has been significant. Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina contain almost archetypal characters, and dramatists such as Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov and Brecht have presented memorable female characters.
- Women writers, such as Virginia Woolf, Iris Murdoch and Doris Lessing, stand with male writers of the 20th century as significant literary figures.
- More recently, the feminist movement has produced a more conscious depiction of the roles of women. Angela Carter's reworking of traditional fairy tales and Margaret Attwood's Handmaid's Tale are key texts in this respect.
More on female roles in literature: Depictions of motherhood can be explored alongside presentations of women as daughters or wives. The femme fatale, from the Arthurian Morgan le Fay to Keats' La Belle Dame sans Merci also makes a fascinating study.
- King James Version
- Today's New International Version
1O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 6Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. 10For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. 13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 15Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. 16Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 17And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 19Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. 20Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. 21Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? 4Have you experienced so much in vain - if it really was in vain? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by your observing the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6So also Abraham 'believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' 7Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: 'All nations will be blessed through you.' 9So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.' 11Clearly no-one is justified before God by the law, because 'the righteous will live by faith.' 12The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, 'Whoever does these things will live by them.' 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.' 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. 15Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no-one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say 'and to seeds', meaning many people, but 'and to your seed', meaning one person, who is Christ. 17What I mean is this: the law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge of us until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. 26So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
- King James Version
- Today's New International Version
1Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. 3But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 13But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. 14Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. 15See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
1Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for the Lord's people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person - such a person is an idolater - has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7Therefore do not be partners with them. 8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible - and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14This is why it is said: 'Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.' 15Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, people have never hated their own bodies, but they feed and care for them, just as Christ does the church - 30for we are members of his body. 31'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' 32This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
- King James Version
- Today's New International Version
1Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. 2For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. 3But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 4He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 5I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. 6Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? 7And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? 9So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. 10There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 11Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. 12Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. 13Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. 14For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 16Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? 17For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 19Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. 20Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. 21In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. 23If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. 26How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 27If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 34Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 36What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 37If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 38But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40Let all things be done decently and in order.
1Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God. Indeed, no-one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3But those who prophesy speak to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4Those who speak in a tongue edify themselves, but those who prophesy edify the church. 5I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. Those who prophesy are greater than those who speak in tongues, unless they interpret, so that the church may be edified. 6Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church. 13For this reason those who speak in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can the others, who are now put in the same situation as an enquirer, say 'Amen' to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17You are giving thanks well enough, but the others are not edified. 18I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21In the Law it is written: 'With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.' 22Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and enquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24But if an unbeliever or an enquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!' 26What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27If anyone speaks in a tongue, two - or at the most three - should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church; let them speak to themselves and to God. 29Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33For God is not a God of disorder but of peace - as in all the congregations of the Lord's people. 34Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. 36Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37If any think they are prophets or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38Those who ignore this will themselves be ignored. 39Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
- King James Version
- Today's New International Version
1I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. 3Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. 6Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. 7Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. 8Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. 9Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household. 11Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord. 12Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord. 13Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them. 15Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. 16Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you. 17Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. 21Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. 22I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord. 23Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. 24The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. 25Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: 27To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.
1I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. 3Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow-workers in Christ Jesus. 4They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. 6Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. 8Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. 9Greet Urbanus, our fellow-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. 10Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 14Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them. 15Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord's people who are with them. 16Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings. 17I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naiive people. 19Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. 20The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews. 22I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city's director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. 24May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen. 25Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to faith and obedience - 27to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
- King James Version
- Today's New International Version
1When therefore the LORD knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 2(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) 3He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. 4And he must needs go through Samaria. 5Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8(For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. 27And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? 28The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. 31In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. 32But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. 33Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? 34Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 35Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. 39And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. 40So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. 41And many more believed because of his own word; 42And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. 43Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. 44For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. 45Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast. 46So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.
1Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptising more disciples than John - 2although in fact it was not Jesus who baptised, but his disciples. 3So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4Now he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.' 11'Sir,' the woman said, 'you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?' 13Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.' 15The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.' 16He told her, 'Go, call your husband and come back.' 17'I have no husband,' she replied. Jesus said to her, 'You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.' 19'Sir,' the woman said, 'I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.' 21'Woman,' Jesus replied, 'believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.' 25The woman said, 'I know that Messiah' (called Christ) 'is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.' 26Then Jesus declared, 'I, the one speaking to you - I am he.' 27Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no-one asked, 'What do you want?' or 'Why are you talking with her?' 28Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29'Come, see a man who told me everything I've ever done. Could this be the Messiah?' 30They came out of the town and made their way towards him. 31Meanwhile his disciples urged him, 'Rabbi, eat something.' 32But he said to them, 'I have food to eat that you know nothing about.' 33Then his disciples said to each other, 'Could someone have brought him food?' 34'My food,' said Jesus, 'is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35Don't you have a saying, 'It's still four months until harvest''? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36Even now those who reap draw their wages, even now they harvest the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps'' is true. 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.' 39Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I've ever done.' 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41And because of his words many more became believers. 42They said to the woman, 'We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.' 43After the two days he left for Galilee. 44(Now Jesus himself had pointed out that prophets have no honour in their own country.) 45When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. 46Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay ill at Capernaum. 47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48'Unless you people see signs and wonders,' Jesus told him, 'you will never believe.' 49The royal official said, 'Sir, come down before my child dies.' 50'Go,' Jesus replied, 'your son will live.' The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52When he enquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, 'Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.' 53Then the father realised that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, 'Your son will live.' So he and his whole household believed. 54This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.
A term which refers to the common standards of ethics or shared history between Jews and Christians.
1) In the Bible a member of the Hebrew race
2) Someone who belongs to the Jewish faith which believes in one God and the importance of Jewish Law.
A 'testament' is a covenant or binding agreement and is a term used in the Bible of God's relationship with his people). The sacred writings of Judaism (the Hebrew Bible). These also form the first part of the Christian Bible.
In the Old Testament a Philistine woman from the valley of Sorek, loved by Samson.
In the Old Testament Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab, and was reponsible with him for the death of Naboth who was killed so that they could gain his vineyard. She was reknowned for painting her face and adorning herself to taunt King Jehu.
In the Old Testament a leader of Israel, identified as a prophetess, a judge and the wife of Lapidoth.
Hebrew queen who saved her people from persecution.
A 'testament' is a covenant (binding agreement), a term used in the Bible of God's relationship with his people. The New Testament is the second part of the Christian Bible. Its name comes from the new covenant or relationship with God.
The author of the third Gospel and the book of Acts in the New Testament.
The 'Apostle to the Gentiles' (d. c. CE 65). Paul had a major role in setting up the Early Church and is believed to be the author of several letters in the Bible.
The name given to the man believed by Christians to be the Son of God. Also given the title Christ, meaning 'anointed one' or Messiah. His life is recorded most fully in the Four Gospels.
Title (eventually used as name) given to Jesus, refering to an anointed person set apart for a special task such as a king.
1. Term for a worshipping community of Christians.
2. The building in which Christians traditionally meet for worship.
3. The worldwide community of Christian believers.
In the New Testament the term is used of all Christians but gradually came to describe an especially holy person.
Bishop in North Africa who wrote a huge volume of literature, including many influential theological works
The disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Bible is known as the Fall of Humankind. Christians believe that humans from then on have had a a predispostion to disobey God.
State of disobedience to - and alienation from - God believed to have characterised human beings since the Fall of Adam and Eve.
The mother of Jesus. The Gospels state that Mary's pregnancy was brought about by the Holy Spirit and not through a human relationship; she is therefore known as the 'Virgin'.
Member of a worldwide Christian church which traces its origins from St. Peter, one of Jesus' original disciples. It has a continuous history from earliest Christianity.
Also called the Eastern, Greek or Russian Church. Developed from the Church of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire.
The period of European history broadly between 1000AD-1500AD.
According to the book of Genesis in the Bible the first woman, said to have been created by God out of Adam's rib, to be his companion.
Adam and Eve's act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden described in the Old Testament Book of Genesis which led to estrangement from God for them and their descendants.
The opposite of goodness; thoughts and actions which are in opposition to God's will and result in wrongdoing and harm. That which opposes God.
Belonging to the Middle Ages.
A person who seeks direct spiritual encounter with God, usually through a life of self-denial and contemplation.
A commitment to remaining unmarried and abstaining from sexual intercourse. Required of monks and nuns, and of priests in the Roman Catholic church.
The act of tempting or something that entices an individual to do wrong. In the Bible, can come from a person's internal desires or from an external evil force such as the Devil.
1. A system of beliefs or devotion, often religious, and shaped by a dominant individual.
2. A small religious group which has beliefs that are regarded as excessively strange and controlling.
Mary, the mother of Jesus and wife of Joseph. It is traditionally understood that Mary was, and remained, a virgin during both the conception and birth of Jesus.
A tradition of aristocratic love-making developed in the medieval period, wherein a knightly lover woos a lady at distance. The literature of this tradition is often highly allegorical.
1. A traditional genre or mode which includes fantasy writing 2. A love story. 3. A Romance language is one that is derived from Latin.
1. Term for a worshipping community of Christians.
2. The building in which Christians traditionally meet for worship.
3. The worldwide community of Christian believers.
In the New Testament the area of Palestine occupied by the Samaritans.
In the Old Testament book of Genesis a righteous man who obeyed God. On God's instruction, Noah built an ark for himself, his family and two of every kind of living creature. They lived in the ark during a great flood and were saved.
A series of short plays or pageants created in the Middle Ages which dramatised episodes from the Bible.
A sonnet is a poem with a special structure. It has fourteen lines, which are organised in a particular manner, usually characterised by the pattern of rhyming, which changes as the ideas in the poem evolve.
Relating to an idealised view of those who live in a country or pastoral setting
1. Associated with spiritual care
2. A literary work depicting sheperds or rural life.
According to the book of Genesis in the Bible the first woman, said to have been created by God out of Adam's rib, to be his companion.
Name originally given to disciples of Jesus by outsiders and gradually adopted by the Early Church.
1. Someone who undertakes a journey to a holy place (such as a biblical site or the shrines of the saints) to seek God's help, to give thanks or as an act of penance.
2. A Christian journeying through life towards heaven.
A journey to a sacred place made for religious reasons. 2. In Christian thought, the journey of the believer through this world towards heaven.
The good moral qualities or desirable characteristics in a person or society.
Negative behaviour ranging from that considered immoral or wicked, to a character weakness or bad habit. The opposite of virtue.