How far are the demands made by some Christians for change in the role and status of women rooted in an understanding of the Bible?
In the Jewish tradition of the Old Testament, women could not be priests (Greek: hieros). In the original Greek text of the New Testament, there are no references to Christian priests (hieros), but instead three types of Christain leaders: bishop (episcopos), deacons (diakonos) and elder (presbyteros). Women are found as deacons and elders and were not explicitly forbidden from being bishops. The Christians actually allowed a significant amount of gender equality until they were assimilated into the ruling structure of the Roman Empire, and increasingly conformed to the misogynistic standards of the surrounding secular society. The 20th and 21st centuries have marked an attempt to return to the gender equality of the early church, following the saying of St. Paul:
There 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. (Gal. 3:28)