The portrayal of women in scripture has come to exist and affect the modern outlook of women in society and the church today. Because of women being presented constantly as negative images, lacking power and respect in the Bible, women have been stigmatized. If women such as Eve and Sarah were presented differently in scripture, the role and power of women might be more significant in today’s world. However because of their depiction, the women of twenty-first-century society experience inequality of church positions and power and are subject to unrealistic ideals and standards.
The role of women in the church has been debated and analyzed for centuries. A recurring theme is the lack of significance that women have in comparison to men. Because of the depiction of women and the lack of point of view from women that the scripture holds, this has lead to the development of a social construct that depicts a male dominated church. Scripture has been written only in regard to men’s thoughts and actions, instituting a construct that women were insignificant in theological history. For example, Genesis 16 says, “Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children” (Gen. 16:1). Why is Sarah shown only to bear children for Abram and not herself as well? Elizabeth Castelli explains this concept in “Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making.” She analyzes how women’s memory is based off of man’s memory. As Castelli comments, “texts and historical sources- Jewish as well as Christian- must be read as androcentric texts. As such they are reflective of the experience, opinion, or control of the individual male writer but not of women’s historical reality and experience.”  Furthermore, women were still present and significant but the lack of documentation in scripture has led to the male-dominated social construct of the church. The consistency of males being shown to be the dominant role in the Bible, subconsciously set standards that women were subject to follow--prohibiting any potential power or significant place of equal power in the church.
Women today have a lack of leadership and responsibility in the church because of the Catholic doctrine that inhibits women from full expression and participation. They are subject to unequal power and lack of attention in regard to their opinions. Sheila Deegan states in her writing, “Women in the Catholic Church” her frustration with the church. She says, “Yes, I know I'm supposed to be joining the priest in the Communion but the image is an event with an audience, where the male (by Canon Law) priest has the doing of the main rituals and preaching, and where I'm prevented (by Canon Law) from interrupting or saying what I might feel.”  (Deegan 2009). She continues with how the rules of the church have all been established by men, excluding with limited reference the population of women. In the story of Creation, Eve is the first human to do evil and subsequently makes Adam sin. The interpretation of her as sinful and capable of turning anyone against God has restricted the leadership and responsibly of women in the church today because of the assumption that all women have these similar immoral qualities. The male dominance of scripture and law has furthermore affected the dominance of the church today.
Not only are women’s opinions and their related power diminished by scripture but they have also become restricted from positions of the church. There have been many movements in attempt to institute change in this matter. In the mid 1970’s, the issue of feminism in the church arose when nuns, sisters, and religious women came together at a national level to address the issues of gender inequality in the church.  The crusade sought out the ability of women to join the priesthood. However, the negative response and lack of approval by Pope John Paul II, ended significant progression within the movement.  The display of women in the Bible as negative images with a lack of respect and power is a driving force to the consistent inequality that women are subject to in the atmosphere. For example, Sarah is not depicted as an equal to her counterpart husband but merely a child bearer. The portrayal of women in scripture such as Sarah has led today’s culture to restrict the fairness of positions in the church. Furthermore, when Jesus chose his apostles he only chose them to be men, making the ordination of a female into the Catholic Church impossible. However, as a female member of the Catholic Church, it is still required that their role has the “same quality of spiritual lifestyle and training” as the males, therefore meaning a role of service within the church.  One argument to be made is that if the perceived image of service is declared to the illustration of priesthood, then the sex of the priest should not matter. As this article states, “when one sees the priesthood like this, one is seeing it as a life of servanthood, not privilege of prestige."  Continuing to preserve male celibate clergy is perpetuating the view in an exclusive manner and stating a “male-only rule then makes the priesthood more of an exclusive fatherhood instead of an inclusive call for service.”  The notion of only men having the opportunity to be priests today can be related to Eve representing women as devilish and incapable of responsibility, while Adam symbolizes men to be pure and accountable. The documentation that proves subordination of women in the past has led to the subordination of women today.
Woman, for thousands of years, have been held to unrealistic standards robbing them of their identity and individuality. They have been overshadowed by their male counterparts and have been constantly put at a disadvantage in the workforce, education systems, and in the Catholic Church. Along with being dominated by their male counterparts, women are constantly being compared to other female figures through scripture pressuring them to look, dress, and behave a certain way in today’s world. In the Catholic Church, “Catholicism places the Virgin Mary on a very high pedestal so that it is extremely difficult if not impossible for women to leap into knowing and understanding their own female identity.”  The strive to be perfect like the depiction of the Virgin Mary in scripture can leave girls feeling as though they are falling short and flawed. The example women are subject to keep distance from is presented by scripture as the sinful Eve. Furthermore, girls are encouraged to use Eve as an example of how not to act because of her wicked nature and actions. Scripture seems to predetermine for females who their idol should be and whom they should live their life according to. The Catholic Church also places a large emphasis on the female’s role in society to reproduce. However, Luce Irigaray, a feminist philosopher argues that “women need to re-cipher the symbol of the mother so that we can re-assert ourselves as women who not only give birth but who are also creators of cultural representations and symbols.”  Women today, whether religiously affiliated or not, have shown to serve the “people of God inside and outside the church.”  As women become more confident in themselves and their role in society, we see that their positions in the Catholic Church are also changing. “Catholic women, religious vocation sisters, nuns, and laywomen continue to make their presence known in and outside the walls of the church spiritually, culturally, and politically.”  Women who have chosen to make religious vows to their church have appeared to be the most spiritual leaders and “are commonly known throughout history as those who have established hospitals, created and sustained schools, provided food and shelter for the less fortunate, and cared for the oppressed and the abandoned.”  These women are supporters for social justice and promoters of change.  On the other hand, spiritually, these are “women of the Church who provide guidance and counseling for people” and even own and manage convents, retreat houses, and counseling centers.  A contrary scriptural interpretation of Eve and Sarah can be used as examples and instigators to this significant development. Although often depicted as negative images and examples, Eve and Sarah have the ability to demonstrate feminine power and independence in scripture. It is inspiring and important to see how women throughout the Catholic Church and even in everyday society are making a change for themselves and standing against standards that have previously been held against them. Although today the primary interpretation in scripture of women restricts power and leadership and subjects them to stereotypes and ideals, that has not prevented their gender from serving other crucial roles in and outside the church walls. This can be due to different explanations of scripture. An example can be Eve. In Genesis, Eve demonstrates strength when she is the first to commit an act of disobedience. She showed that she is not the weaker sex when she ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. Contrary to this interpretation though, this action has instigated a negative portrayal of women being evil and capable of turning anyone against God in today’s world. However, this example of Eve in the Garden has not been ignored and forgotten in modern society as woman use her as an example to continue to rebel against societal norms and notions of men being the dominant sex. Although this can be viewed as a negative aspect, Eve is an empowering force for women as they are continuingly standing up for themselves and proving their place in society. In addition to Eve, a differing interpretation of Sarah in scripture can contribute to the empowerment of women. For her whole life, Sarah wanted to have a biological child of her own. After many failed attempts, she gave birth to Isaac at the age of 19. Prior to the birth of her son Isaac, Sarah sought out other ways to demonstrate her maternal instincts and even allowed her husband, Abraham, to have a child with their servant, Hagar. Sarah states, “you see the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go into my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her”(Gen 16:1). However, at the time of Isaac’s arrival, Sarah’s dream of having a child of her own was not the same as it once was. The modern day Sarah encourages women to revise their long awaited goals and to alter the visions that were once created. She emphasizes that it is acceptable to acknowledge that the things we might have once wanted or thought would provide us with endless happiness might not do the same thing when they actually arrive. Sarah’s noted devotion to her goal of having a child is important to note because even though the birth of her son did not go as expected, she accomplished it with patience and strength.
Ultimately, it is clearly displayed through scripture that since biblical times there have been pre-conceived notions about how women should behave and act in society. These notions did not just apply to the Catholic Church alone as they extended outside the church walls and into everyday society. From being overshadowed by the opposite sex, restricted in the work force, and robbed of their identity, women have worked to prove themselves in society for thousands of years. Although some might view religious figures such as Sarah and Eve as representing feminine stereotypes and sinful nature, it is important to see that these figures also represent strength and female empowerment. Furthermore, it is crucial in today’s world to understand that scripture can be interpreted in many ways. The explanations should not hinder the power and positions of women in the church and set ideals and standards that women are subject to follow. Biblical texts should be interpreted only how one wishes, not how society determines. Sarah and Eve are two religiously-powerful, female figures who should never be forgotten or go unnoticed as they remind modern day readers that women are influential and independent. This should over power the traditional view of Sarah and Eve that symbolizes them as sinful and negative stereotypes, subsequently hurting the women of today.
 Elizabeth A. Castelli. Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).  Sheila Deegan. “Women in the Catholic Church.” The Furrow 60, no. 11 (November 2009): 635–37.  Myra Marx Ferree and Patricia Yancey Martin. Feminist Organizations: Harvest of the New Women's Movement. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995).  Ria Barretto Aquino. "Women Ordination in the Roman Catholic Church" (2014). Senior Theses and Capstone Projects. Paper 12.  Anne Keary. "Catholic Mothers and Daughters: Becoming Women." Feminist Theology 24, no. 2 (2015): 187-205.