Friday, December 12, 2014

Sit down before you read this essay on "Women's Status in the Bible"

Here is the opening of this young woman's essay. My comments are in brackets.

Between cultures and continents there are varying degrees of gender stratification. Some cultures rely on nature or religion to justify the status of women in their society. The Holy Bible is an important religious text that is used to justify perceived differences between men and women. ["perceived differences"... not real differences?] An examination of women’s status in the Holy Bible can be divided into three areas of study: The Old Testament, the Gospels of Jesus, and the New Testament Epistles. In the Old Testament women are represented as inferior to men and are considered the property of men. [Inferior? Most of the women named in the Bible were of high social rank as the wives and daughters of ruler-priests.] With the coming of Jesus Christ a revolutionary new message was preached. Women and men are represented as equals before God and in the early Church. [Jesus' treatment of the women he interacted with stands in stark contrast to the treatment of women in the period of the Second Temple which was generally worse than during the time of Jesus' Habiru/Hebrew ancestors. The Church Fathers do not view men and women as equal in authority.] After the death of Christ new doctrine gradually reverted the role of women to the way it was before the time of Jesus. [This is historically inaccurate. The Justinian code elevated the status of women and provided special protections for them.] Both the Old Testament and the New Testament appeal to the authority of God and his messengers to support their constructed gender roles. ["Constructed gender roles?" Who constructed them? When were they constructed?] In both the Old and the New Testament the same God is used to justify different views on women. [What are these different views? Please specify the contradictions!] Although gender characteristics are often presented as being natural and integrally connected to sex, the changing status of women throughout the Holy Bible shows that people and not God construct gender.[Assuming gender has to do with human anatomy, body chemistry and psychological wiring, I am amazed that anyone could claim to have constructed gender.]

The Old Testament contains many passages that dictate the status of women. The very first book, Genesis, establishes women as inferior to men in creation and in social position. As a creation story the words of Genesis are sacred and are attributed directly to God. Although the first chapter of Genesis describes God as creating both the male and female at the same time, suggesting equality between the two, the second chapter says that man was made first and that woman was made from a part of man to be his helper. The term helper may be seen as suggesting either an equal or an inferior status for Eve. Her inferiority is firmly established in Genesis 3:16 when God discovers that she has eaten from the tree of knowledge.
In Genesis 3:15 God declares that the Woman will bring forth the Seed who will crush the Serpent's head, but in the next verse God declares her to have an inferior status. Wow!  Almost renders one speechless.
Related reading:  The Bible as the Woman's Story; Survey of Women in Genesis; Kushite Wives; The Daughters of Horite Priests; The Status of Women in Ancient Egypt and Arabia; Women Rulers in Ancient Israel


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But the grain of truth in this otherwise ridiculous essay is that *modern* people have sometimes (mis)used the Bible to justify an inferior status for women.

we all know the Bible is misused to justify all manner of deplorable things.

DDeden said...

Serpent head, Tent peg


Alice C. Linsley said...

That is true, Anastasia. However, she is trotting out the old feminist lines and ignoring what the Bible tells us about the women. For example, she neglects to tell us that at least 70% of the women named in the Bible are women of relatively high social status as the daughters and wives of ruler-priests. No mention either of the women who were rulers and prophets, such as Deborah, Huldah and Anna.

Margaret said...

According to Eugene Pentiuc, a Phd in Akkadian and Hebrew, the correct translation of Gen 2:18 is And Yahweh God said,'It is not good for humanity to be isolated. I will make for it a help like it's opposite." "Humanity[not a male named 'Adam,' but the word 'adam' for 'humanity'], says Pentiuc, "was fashioned by God as a dialogical and social being, positioned face to face with the Creator. Woman was created to complement the immediate role of the Creator in communication and relationship with man. Woman's role in salvation history is therefore as great as man's, in her role as an equal companion."

This is the foundational premise of the creation of gender, that the pair [a binary pair] is intended to be equal and opposite one another, a help and a complement, the image of God to one another, and in relationship with one another. This is not oppressional, this is not competitive, it is compatible, complementary, and compassionate.

This is further reinforced in Gen. 2:21-22: So Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the humanity; and while it slept, he took one of its rib and closed up its place with flesh. And Yahweh God fashioned the rib that he had taken from the humanity into a woman; and he brought her to the humanity.

Pentiuc tells us, "The Targum Onkelos adds, "God fashioned the rib...into a woman for marriage," in order to show that in fashioning Eve, God meant to provide man with a wife, to preserve the unity of the first entity through marriage." "This demonstrates that the Creator is, above all,interested in preserving the horizontal dimension of the image of God in humans, namely, unity in diversity." "Both male and female are creatures fashioned by God, and humanity's earlier temporal advent does not translate into an indication of the gender superiority of its default element, man."

It is from this understanding that all other gender contributions and relationships flow. Both male and female are important, and as a binary pairing, they are intended to work together for their salvation, in love and respect for one another. Any other relationship denies the image of God in each, and is contrary to the intention of the Creator.

This young woman's understanding of OT, and NT reflects the difficulties of translating and conveying the sense of the original as well as how the teaching of scripture is distorted.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Complementary does not mean objectively equal, however. Male-female is one of the universal, objectively observed and divinely fixed binary sets. The binary sets in the Bible have a hierarchy, that is, one is superior in an obvious way to the other. This does not overthrow the complementarity. It is the fundmental principle which distinguishes the Creator as greater than the creature; the Sun as more potent than the Moon; life more glorious than death; and the male larger and stronger than the female. Without this hierarchy within the binary sets, the biblical worldview would simply be another form of dualism. Without this hierarchy there could be no kenotic act whereby God stoops to save the weak and lost.

DManA said...

Interesting she refers to it as the HOLY bible.

Wonder what holy means to her?