TAKING OFF THE PATRIARCHAL GLASSES

By

Cora E. Cypser

Published by

KIM PATHWAYS


Dedicated to

Mary Magdalene

and

The Presbyter Joanna

Copyright © 1987 by Cora E. Cypser.

Second Edition 1991

All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number:

ISBN: 0-962577 Soft cover

For more information:

KIM PATHWAYS

16 Young Road

Katonah NY 10536

ii


CONTENTS

PREFACE  vi

Ch. 1-WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS

1.1 A Parable 1

1.2 Love One Another 2

1.3 A God-given Tool 3

1.4 Hermeneutics and Hieroglyphics 5

1.5 The Womanly Aspect of God's Love 10

1.6 Early Ideas of God 11

1.7 Men as Sole Dispensers of the Religious 15

Notes 18

Ch. 2-GOD IS PLEASED WITH HER

2.1 Taking off the Patriarchal Glasses 19

2.2 The Feminine in Isaiah 25

2.3 Language We Use for Divinity 29

2.4 Fathers, Servants, and Bridges 31

2.5 Prophets and Charlatans 35

Notes 38

Ch. 3-WHO WROTE GENESIS?

3.1 Thoughts on a Garden 39

3.2 Moses as Author 45

3.3 Literature in the Days of David and Solomon 49

3.4 Interesting People at Court 51

3.5 The Jahwist Editor 56

3.6 The Elohist Editor 59

Notes 63

Ch. 4-THE TOUCH OF A WOMAN'S HAND

4.1 Authorship of the Pentateuch 65

4.2 The Feminine Identity of the Jahwist 67

4.3 Visiting Royalty 70

iii


4.4 The Deuteronomist Editor 71

4.5 Carried Away to Babylon 78

4.6 A Little Child Shall Lead Them 83

4.7 The Peaceful One and the Beard 86

Notes 89

Ch. 5-A BLACK WOMAN SAVES THE JEWISH RACE

5.1 Laying the Ghost of Shemiah 91

5.2 The Wife of Moses 93

5.3 A Priestess of the Rite of Circumcision? 96

5.4 The Dismissal 97

5.5 Other Possible References to Zipporah 97

5.6 Prejudice Against Sons of a Black Woman 102

5.7 Zipporah as Savioress 105

5.8 Community in the Old Testament 106 Notes 108

Ch.6-THE PERENNIAL PROBLEM OF SIN

6.1 Cultural Interpretations of Genesis 109

6.2 Translating the Word "Adam" 112

6.3 Enlarging on the Peaceful Author's Theology 114

6.4 The Fall or the Rising? 117

6.5 Original Sin 121

6.6 Jesus on Adam and Eve 122

6.7 Paul and the Garden 123

6.8 Pseudo-Paul on the Garden 125

6.9 God-inspired Messages 127

Notes 131

Ch. 7-A GOD WHO SEES

7.1 God Sees Women 133

7.2 The Lord Has Seen My Trouble 136

7.3 Does God Hide God's Face? 138

7.4 Other Historical Roles of Women 143

7.5 A Bitter Blow 148

Notes 150

iv


Ch. 8-THE POSSIBILITY OF THE GOSPEL OF LUCY

8.1 Authorship Customs in New Testament Times 151

8.2 The Holy Spirit as Maker of Gospels 153

8.3 Names as Clues in Gospel Stories 156

8.4 Female Authorship in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark 161

8.5 The Feminine in the Gospel of Luke 164

8.6 Many Writings for Fullest Revelation 168

8.7 Lucy's Theology 168

8.8 Female Relatedness 172

8.9 Luke versus Lucy 174

Notes 175

Ch. 9-ONE POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO THE MYSTERY
IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

9.1 A Whodunit! 177

9.2 Disciples and Rabbis 183

9.3 The Beloved Disciple as Mary Magdalene? 187

9.4 The Witnesses at the High Priest's Palace 190

9.5 The Beloved Disciple at the Foot of the Cross 191

9.6 Mary Magdalene at the Tomb 193

9.7 The Exalted Position of Women in John's Gospel 196

9.8 The Beloved Disciple in John 21 198

9.9 Back to Whodunit? The Authors 202

Notes 206

Ch. 10-WOMAN'S POSITION IN THE FAITH COMMUNITY

10.1 The Calling of a Woman 207

10.2 Church Fathers as Church Mothers 210

10.3 Women as Servers of Eucharist 212

10.4 Problems of Joanna 216

10.5 I Timothy and Roman Household Codes 219

10.6 Growth in the Church 223

10.7 God's Intentions versus Man's Inventions 226

10.8 Don't Be Afraid 228

Notes 230

AFTERTHOUGHTS

The Peculiarities of Canon Law

Definition of Ordination

Suing for and Pursuing after Ordination

Lay People and Priests

The Need for Symbols

Notes

v


PREFACE

In spite of the title, this book is addressed to men as well as to women. It is intended for those persons interested in coming to a deeper understanding of their faith commitment through study of the Bible. While I hope that Biblical exegetes will accept my work as a serious effort, I believe that the ordinary lay person will also be able to derive inspiration from it. In viewing the Bible as a structure to carry the love of God to humankind, I strive to show that this structure teaches the equality of the female with the male. The hope is that my book with its questioning attitude will create greater understanding and cooperation between the sexes, and further the growth of loving community in the world.

Scholars have long identified the editors of the Pentateuch as gray bearded scribes, and called these individuals the Jahwist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomist, and the Priestly authors. I discuss the possibility of some of these editors being women. I emphasize the feminine in the Adam and Eve story, and ask the reader to step back in history and empathize with the black woman Zipporah, the wife of Moses. Coming to the New Testament, I raise the possibilities of the Gospels of Mathilda, Marcia, Lucy, and Joanna. If you like resolving puzzles, inquire with me into who was the faithful disciple who stood at the foot of the cross.

The message of the Bible is that we should love one another. This means that both men and women should show consideration and respect for both women and men. Though many readers may believe that the Bible advocates patriarchy, this is not the case. It emphasizes the equality of the male and the female, of the imprisoned and the free, of all races and nations. It urges us to form loving community.

I hope that in considering my suggestions, you will broaden your perspectives, and that the men in the reading audience will become more understanding of women. Likewise, my hope for the women, is that they will be more appreciative of men.

vi

Chapter 1:
Women Are Human Beings

1.1 A Parable

Once upon a time there was a wise ruler who had a wonderful tool. This tool enabled his subjects to live together in peace and harmony. Since this ruler was very wise, he knew what was going on at vast distances, and in a far away country he observed that the people were having problems building loving community. He thought to himself how much they really needed the use of his tool.

He called his subjects to him, and he asked for volunteers to carry this wonderful tool to the far away country. Many of them were very eager to undertake this adventure, and even his only son whom he loved very dearly, asked permission to assist in this kind deed.

It was not an easy job, but then, it seems that nothing worthwhile is really easy. They had to disassemble the tool, carefully marking how the pieces were to be joined. Then they had to carry the pieces separately along difficult roads for long distances.

You know how servants are:— some are more dependable than others. Even some of the responsible ones met up with grave difficulties. Eventually they arrived at the country, and reassembled the wonderful tool. The son had done his part well, and was able to make a most effective contribution to this generous project.

The citizens of the far away country were very grateful to the distant ruler, and attempted to make proper use of the wonderful tool. It had been reassembled in fairly good order, and most of its parts were working quite well. Some minor damage had been done in transport, a few parts misplaced, and some assembly directions garbled, but on the whole, the tool was capable of delivering loving community to all those who attempted to use it properly.

1.2 Love One Another

The wonderful tool spoken about in the above parable is the Bible, given to us by the wise God who created us. We can use this wonderful tool to promote loving community. In this writing I would like to use the Bible to promote, not just any kind of community, but, specifically, I would like to encourage greater understanding between the sexes. If we are to achieve a peaceful and beautiful world, such as the time of the Millennium or the


dream of Omega laid before us by Teilhard de Chardin, we must work diligently in all disturbed areas, in order to achieve maximum consideration for others. We must not be afraid to envision new possibilities of grandeur for humankind. The future is waiting for our actions of today. To bring in this future, we must act creatively and decisively.

One of the trouble spots that needs attention is the area of gender discrimination. For so long we seem to have agreed to live passively in a society that degrades and puts down members of the feminine gender. It is not just that women are given secondary status, and paid less for equal labor. Women also retaliate against men by hating men in the secret places of their hearts and by laughing up their sleeves at men's mistakes and all too human clumsiness, instead of being forgiving and encouraging.

Looking at this situation from an overview of total humanity, we can state that women as human beings have certain rights and responsibilities. Women must treat themselves with respect, and they must treat others with the respect due to others as children of a loving creator. As human beings, women must give thoughtful consideration to all human beings, and women should expect to receive similar treatment from those around them. The situation is similar for men. Somewhere humanity has gone astray; most of us don't treat each other in this fashion.

I believe that one of God's purposes in the making of the cosmos, was to promote loving community. Thus I am writing this book to further this design of God's. I have noticed that some women feel that men oppress them, and I have also noticed that some men are very bitter about the pushiness of some women. They flee from the woman. A few become celibate. Some join male clubs. They may go homosexual. What have some women done to cause such a reaction? Is womankind herself responsible for the oppression that she feels comes from men? God surely didn't plan it that way. There must be a method to encourage more considerate caring cooperation between the sexes. Even a marriage today, which should be a loving union of two, is liable to become a contest of self interests.

The religious faiths prominent in our world today urge us all forward to peace between races, peace between countries, and peace between sexes. As Christians we find that Jesus asked that we love one another. He asked for men to love both men and women. He asked for women to love both women and men. Let's try to comply. Perhaps if we examine the historical roots of the conflict, in particular through the study of that wonderful tool, the Bible, the sexes will gain more sympathy for each other. If, in examining the Bible we find that men and women are equally responsible for the formation of loving community in the world, perhaps men and women will


have renewed respect for each other and be more willing to work lovingly together in order to achieve God's kingdom on earth.

To the men, I would like to say:— Don't be afraid of women; love us. We are fifty percent of the world community, and we have a lot to offer. To the women:— Men basically want what is good. They desire peace and order. They want kind and just rules by which to play the game of life. They want to fulfill God's purposes of loving community. We must give them support in their positive actions, yet we must refrain from being overbearing. We must not be domineering authoritative mothers, but considerate women who allow freedom to those we profess to love.

Both men and women have great respect for the inspiration of God as given in the Bible. Let us turn our gaze on those collected messages from God to see if there is an obvious overall design for justice and peace between men and women, contained therein. Let us look for new ways to implement ancient wisdom. Let us listen to one another with honest concern, and perhaps we will find that we have not strayed as far from the path to loving community, as we thought we had.

1.3 A God-given Tool

When we approach religious writings such as the Bible, we immediately run into the problems of translation and interpretation. If you have ever traveled in a foreign country and tried to communicate important happenings to someone else in a foreign language, you know that there is often difficulty in getting your message across. When we read the Bible, we must realize that there are quite a few obstacles to our getting the perfect translation.

There are many different biblical translations, such as The King James Version, The Good News Bible of the American Bible Society, The Jerusalem Bible which has its roots in French scholarship, and The Way which gives a modern free translation of the Word of God. These different translations, when compared together, can give us valuable new insights into the possible meaning of God's Word. As these translations are made by humans, albeit overseen by the Holy Spirit, they do contain the human element, and sometimes the different translations are not in agreement. In cases such as these, we need further interpretation by the Holy Spirit working in a loving community, to assist us in coming to a clearer understanding of the message of God to his people.

Language misinterpretation is one problem of biblical translation. There are many others, due to editors and compilers from one culture and age misunderstanding the materials given from a previous generation. Inserts that someone believed would clarify the data, were liable to link items that should have been kept separate. Editorial notes that should have been


left on the margin, were inserted as part of the text. A wide variety of editors worked diligently believing that they were helping to bring the message of God to his people, and they did a good job, as the Holy Spirit was with them. However, the Holy Spirit can only work with each person using that individual's available knowledge of language and customs. As we are human, the translating and interpreting abilities of each of us are limited. If we work together in love, the Holy Spirit has more freedom to use all our different talents, which them allows the Spirit to give us a more enriched translation of God's Holy Word.

We revere the Bible as we believe it is a collection of words that bring to humankind, the revelation of God. God makes this revelation of Godself to humankind in different ways. had no Bible, but God revealed himself to , as I Am Who Am, as the Ground of Being for all persons. absorbed this revelation, and related it to his community. ' community passed this communication of God, on through the centuries, to us, in great part by the use of Holy Scripture. Thus we see that God uses different structures to communicate what he is like to humankind. God uses the structure of an individual man, such as . God uses the structure of a worshiping community, such as the Hebrews of the Exodus. Finally, God uses the structure of Holy Scripture.

The Revelation of God to enhanced the growth of ' community, and it also enhanced the growth of future communities. In a similar manner other persons received insight into the Being of God; these theophanies were collected, and the gathering of them likewise was effective for the building of loving community.

We can regard the Holy Scriptures as a beautiful tool given to humankind by God, to bring us closer to him, and to assist us in being more understanding of one another. If we have a valuable tool, we cherish it carefully and keep it honed and polished, so that rust or misuse will not damage it. If the tool has intricate parts, we strive to understand these mechanisms, so that we do not damage them through carelessness. Seeing that our God has been so generous as to give us this tool, the Bible, we must use it as effectively as we can. This means that we must also keep ourselves in good condition, so that we get the maximum benefit from this tool, for ourselves and for others. If we are to use a tool to best purposes, we must have a steady hand, a clear mind, and a good disposition.

1.4 Hermeneutics and Hieroglyphics

In investigating the inner workings of this marvelous tool, we find that its original parts spring from many different languages. Some of its ideas were first set down in picture writings similar to Assyrian cuneiform. God's Word


to Moses on the stone tablets of law, may have been chiseled in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Hebrews appropriated the language of the land of Canaan after their arrival there, and Hebrew became a dialect of this Canaanite tongue. After the captivity of the tribes in Babylon, the Aramaic tongue of Cyrus, the conqueror of Babylon, became the official language of the day. Aramaic was the day-by-day language of Jesus, but those of his time who knew the Jewish law were cognizant of Hebrew, and Greek was also spoken by people of culture in New Testament times. Aramaic targums were translated into Hebrew and Greek, and this Greek was put into Latin in the Vulgate. From the Latin, the Holy Scriptures were gradually put into our present languages.

If English is considered a sexist language because we use the pronoun he in preference to the pronoun she when a person of either sex is indicated, we must realize that Greek gives the woman even less notice. Greek verbs contain their pronoun subjects in their endings, so that the Greek word for "he sees" is the same as the word for "she sees," which is also the same word as "it sees." Using English letters, we can set down this multi-meaning word as "blepei." A translator of the Bible running across this word blepei would have to translate it as "he sees" unless some other word in the sentence gave him some clue that a woman or a sexless object was involved in the action. Hebrew has a similar system. If a prophet's name was not known to be feminine, her good words and actions may have been attributed to a male person, as a translator would be obliged to give the masculine designation in any disputable circumstances. As a human being in a particular cultural milieu, the translator would be obliged to operate within the peculiarities of his or her language.

We have the problem not only of the structure of the language, but also that of words that change and grow with the change and growth of society. Meanings that were obvious to citizens of pre-exilic Jerusalem, are lost to us in their journey across the centuries. Societal customs are much different from ours, and new interpretations of old words and phrases are automatically reflected by the translator. A word like sin that originally implied missing the mark, can take on more formidable connotations of evil with the ensuing necessity for God's wrath. The amazing thing is that the Word of God is relevant for humankind today,— that the earlier message of the creator to the created elicits a response in our modern hearts.

The translator of the Book of Ecclesiasticus writing in the year 132 BC, brings up this problem. He asks his readers to "show indulgence in those places where, notwithstanding our efforts at interpretation, we may seem to have failed to give an adequate rendering of this or that expression;


the fact is that you cannot find an equivalent for things originally written in Hebrew when you come to translate them into another language; what is more, you will find on examination that the Law itself, the Prophets and the other books differ considerably in translation from what appears in the original text" (Ecclesiasticus Foreward:18-26). In order for us to fully appreciate God's word, it becomes very important for us to know what God was saying to people back then, and how we should relate it to the circumstances of our present day living.

Each society has its own shell of protective customs that grow up around it and enable it to flourish. It has methods of war and governance. It has religious forms that have proven to be effective. It has markets and means of communication with other societies. All these devices give the society a certain mind-set, a way of looking at things, that is considered to be the acceptable way, the way of optimum safety. It becomes so much a part of that society, that the people of that society are almost unaware of the existence of this thought pattern. It is considered to be the way to do things.

In our society we tend to see everything from a patriarchal view-point. Patriarchs are venerable old men, and our society has been guided for most of its recorded history by men who were considered venerable, yet who had considerable difficulty getting along with each other, and also had the problem of keeping the women in line. How did this male dominance of society develop? Perhaps it is because all these men had mothers, and the setting aside of women today may stem from the pushiness of early mothers who loved their sons tenderly, and worried over them frantically, so that the sons could hardly wait to untie the apron strings and become their own persons in freedom.

History is given us from a patriarchal viewpoint. Battles are reported by men. Political machinations are run by men. Men don't really know what is going on (as they are only human), but they have to put up a good front and pretend that they do. Ancient kings who lost battles erected stylos that reported they had a great victory, and perhaps they really felt they were setting down the truth. The Catholic historian Richard McBrien admits that history is always written by those who have limited data and come from a faulty perspective.1 As we are all too human, we let our prejudices and our errors slip into whatever we may be writing. The astounding thing is that other people believe, repeat, and compound the error.

When we consider the information we acquire in our daily life, we notice that humans believe what they want to believe. If we smoke, we choose to believe that it won't be unhealthy for us or for those around us. If


nuclear weapons threaten the world, we believe that somehow we shall avoid a nuclear war. We try to maintain the status quo, because we believe that is where most of us operate best. We act on the premise that believing will make it so. We appropriate information that confirms us in our ego security.

Knowing that I am working against ingrained beliefs in a conforming society, I shall attempt to emphasize and clarify certain incidents and information to be found in the text of the Bible. I shall try to strip off the conjectures of others in relation to these facts. I will attempt to separate out conclusions that succeeding generations have deduced from these facts, that don't necessarily follow. Then I will propose questions about the purposes of the original author. This process doesn't make the information unhistorical or deformed. It merely cleans it up so that it can be observed from a fresh viewpoint. Please carefully consider this new viewpoint and its relationship to the total message of the Bible, before reacting angrily against change in what you may believe is sacrosanct. I may propose that a woman is the individual behind a biblical author that society has always considered to be a man. This may upset your societal beliefs, but it shouldn't necessarily be a body blow to the tenets of your faith. As God, religion, and community are equally concerned with men and women, shouldn't women have their possible share in the input of ancient religious writings? Shouldn't women have an equal share in the religious writings and the church community of today?

Jesus came that we might know the truth and be freed from our misconceptions. Others came after Jesus and built on his foundations. Down through the ages church persons have created a beautiful painting, layer over layer of vibrant colors laid over the original, so that the basic Jesus is difficult to see. If we carefully scrape away these additions, perhaps we will learn something about ourselves, and be able to see the wisdom of Jesus with greater clarity. If many of us examine God's inspirational word, and revise our responses to it, we will surely come closer to the mind and heart of God. Much thought on the subject, many revisions, concerned input, will all lead to truer output and a greater closeness to our creator.

As we all come from different backgrounds, it is highly unlikely that we will agree on every pronouncement; but if we discuss in the spirit of love and understanding, we will grow in the ability to admit that others have a right to their own opinion. There are twelve gates to the city of God (Revelation 21:12), and we all come at it from different directions. The unity of humankind does not consist in our thinking identical conforming thoughts, but in our loving and accepting one another in spite of our differences.


There are various methods of seeking inspiration from the Bible, and some of us feel more comfortable with one style then another. At opposite extremes, we have those often termed fundamentalists, who see explicit truth in every phrase, and, on the other hand, we have theoreticians who seek more for a general over-all message. Most of us would agree that if we humbly ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, we will receive enlightenment that will lead to our fulfillment, no matter what our particular method of search.

Juan Segundo, a Latin American liberation theologian, tells us about a method of biblical interpretation for our day.2 His hermeneutic advises us to re-examine our interpretation of the Bible in light of changes in present day reality, both individual and societal. Two hundred years ago, slavery was an accepted facet of life, and those who read their Bible found justification for this practice. Today in a society partially cleansed from the evil of slavery, we find our Bibles proclaiming the freedom and equality before God of each human person. The hermeneutical tool of re-examination was used to help us see the slavery situation more clearly, and it can likewise be used effectively in denuding our patriarchal system.

Another problem that we must wrestle with, is our lack of knowledge of the original language. Ancient scribes were artists who wrote with dramatic flourishes. Their work might be compared to Chinese wall hangings of today, where the artist with his pen makes each character into a carefully crafted picture. These characters can only be translated loosely. What one translator may read as, "The beautiful flowers grow slowly on the blue hill," another reader may pinpoint as, "The chrysanthemums bloom in my far away homeland." It is difficult to get closely compatible accounts of ancient material. The scribe who copies the original author is an artist in his own right. He translates the thought of his predecessor, and his interpretation of that thought can strengthen or take away from the original design. He may feel the Spirit of God urging him to add a few ideas on the subject. For this reason we have two letters of Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon reported in the Old Testament. One is in Baruch 6 and the other is in Jeremiah 29. They are similar in that one prophesies seven generations of deportment, and the other specifies seventy years. Their inspiration is from the same original letter, but this inspiration is filtered through the hand written flourishes of scribes with individual mind sets. In our search for facts we must not overlook the guiding inspiration of the Spirit working in different people at different times in history, and must give these variances proper weight in our considerations.


1.5 The Womanly Aspect of God's Love

Most of us think that the Bible is a book that is written by males, who were inspired by a fatherly God, so that religious groups, headed by men, could lead the people to salvation. I would like to make some slight changes in the above statement. My assertion is that the Bible is a book written by human beings inspired by a mysterious First Cause, in order that humanity can see God's action across history and be inspired to participate in that action. My statement could be rewritten in many other ways, because all of us come from many different cultures, and have many different viewpoints, and each of us must express what we feel, from out of that particular person that he or she is.

I am glad that I am a woman, as being a woman has shaped my thought. Not only can I observe our society and its customs from its normal patriarchal viewpoint, but I can also investigate history and theology with the perceptions of a questioning female. Right from the start, when I related to God, I felt in God the caring love that I had experienced from the hands of the wonderful woman who raised me, who gave up things for herself, so that I might have more. For me, there is a womanly aspect to God's love, but how do most of us see God as represented in the Bible? Is our God like the warrior God of some early Hebrews, a God with vengeful designs, leading us, his people, onward, against the false gods and goddesses of wayward foreigners? Not all early Hebrews saw God this way. Psalm 101 sings about kindness and justice. Psalm 103 proclaims that God is always on the side of the oppressed. There are implications of some folk worshiping the gentler side of God, as when Rachel hides the household gods from her father Laban in Genesis 31:31-35.

Being tenderhearted and motherly, some women may even have been responsible for the quality of forgiveness being used on other human beings. Cain did not receive capital punishment for the slaying of Abel (Genesis 4:15). Could a loving mother have been behind the more forgiving sentence? Even today the quality of forgiveness, as mentioned in the Lord's prayer, is often seen as unbecoming for a male. Society seems to expect that a male should want to get even with the person who wronged him, and not want to forgive. It is felt that a man must show strength and anger or his adversary will take advantage of him. However, Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek and preached forgiveness. Our machismic society often prefers not to hear talk about forgiveness.

The Old Testament and the prophets such as Isaiah, proclaim God's mercy to God's straying people. Jesus, in the New Testament, urges us to be like God, and to have mercy for others (Luke 6:36). As God wants what


will fulfill Israel, we should want for the other human being, whatever will fulfill that person, even if that person has wronged us or is our enemy. You may say that this emphasis on forgiveness that I claim is in the Bible is a personal thing, coming out of my particular viewpoint. You may find the Bible saying that God is with the oppressed and that the oppressed should rise up and destroy the oppressor in a manly way, and that the only way to forgive the oppressor is to remove him from his position of authority, even perhaps to destroy him so that he will never again have the ability to oppress. Many read the Bible from this completely machismic viewpoint and feel God's spirit supporting them in this orientation of their lives. Being human, we are bound to have differences in opinion, but I would like to ask you to make an experiment in empathy. Try to see how the women in the Bible thought and felt. Temporarily set aside your male guided opinions, and be open to female oriented suggestions on biblical history.

1.6 Early Ideas of God

Try to forget that this is a Man's World!

How did women ever let it get to be such a man's world? Was it so from the beginning? In the beginning, God made them male and female. It seems that we started off on a pretty equal footing. Perhaps the blame for the whole situation lies with God, or with our human ideas of God. After all, we make God in our own image. We don't really know what God is like; he is so far beyond our comprehension. We are obliged to describe God in words that we can understand. We speak in terms of our needs, and relate deity to whatever is most important to us at the time. The power-hungry among us, describe a God of power who will help them to rule over others. Those who need daily bread desperately, describe a God who feeds the hungry.

Away back in the dawn of history, individuals invented a God who surprised them with the liberality of the land. This deity was usually represented as a pregnant woman, a mother nature who was fecund with the goods of life. Early figurines show a female figure, broad bosomed and large bellied.3 Her arms and legs are stubs. Hunting and gathering societies related to a goddess who showed her care for them through the bounty of a producing earth. As long as there was room on the face of the earth to hunt and gather, without interfering too severely with other peoples, the goddess of the land sufficed for her true worshipers.

A fecund mother nature, however, led to an increase in people. Societies progressed, and while there still were hunting-gathering groups, some tribes settled down to agriculture, and often remained in one place. People collected in farming communities for defensive purposes, and these communities


were the beginnings of towns. Other groups figured out that it was a lot easier to domesticate their own animals, rather than being dependent on the direct generosity of nature, and became herding tribes. Of necessity, these herders and the farming communities had varying claims to the land.

The prophets proclaimed that the earth was the Lord's, and that humankind should share the land equally, but people started dividing up the Lord's property and had violent arguments about it. The need for a new type of God who let you own property and helped you to protect it, became apparent.

Not only the idea of God, but also the status of women, was changing as the scene shifted from lush forest to irrigated plain. We know that on the Greek isles, the goddess Artemis was famous for her use of bow and arrow, but the woods she hunted in so successfully disappeared under the onslaught of civilization and are barren islands today. Her twin brother god, Apollo, represented all that was pleasing in a man (from a female viewpoint). He was the god of manly youth and beauty, of poetry, music, and oracles. He was the god of healing and the stayer of plagues. We women wish that such a notion of all that is good in males, had stayed around, as opposed to the macho, muscle-bound, he-man type. (Perhaps the notion has stayed, in part, in the concept of Jesus Christ.) As time passed, Artemis became connected with the moon, and Apollo with the sun. Artemis was taken into the religion of Rome as Diana. The historical structuring of Apollo has many different threads. We find Constantine in the year 310, as a young leader of great religious toleration, praying at a shrine to Apollo in Gaul.4 Apollo promised Constantine a thirty year reign, represented by three X's, the designation of the Roman numeral 30 (XXX=30). These same three crosses were also interpreted by Constantine in a Christian manner as the crosses of Good Friday. Before his soldiers, Constantine's Christianity blended happily with the cult of light and the cult of the sun.5 It is not too surprising that when Emperor Constantine was accepted as a religious authority, Christ was seen to bear certain resemblances to Apollo, the son of the God Zeus, by the mortal woman Leto, and that we have a mortal woman Mary, being proclaimed as the Mother of God at the Council of Ephesus, in harmony with earlier Roman notions. From the idea of feminine goddesses such as Mother Earth and Artemis, we have down graded our notions of women to their being solely mortal. God the Father and God the Son are definitely masculine. Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzus, and other fourth century writers, speaking of the One Divine Nature in the unity of Godhead, help people to assume that the Holy Spirit is also a masculine quantity.6


This disadvantaged position of women in the fourth century in regards to divinity is also reflected in the treatment of the everyday woman of the time. Augustine displays abominable treatment of his common-law wife. How did women sink so low?

When the woods gave out, and the women became settled in the farming communities on the open plains, they kept their female goddesses of fecundity as can be seen in Rachel's deceit of Laban in Genesis 31:34. They had long before ceased to go hunting. There was barely enough room for the men to hunt. The men had begun to hunt each other. Farmers and herders had land disputes.

The story of Cain and Abel illustrates the problems that were arising between human beings early in remembered history. Cain was the farmer and Abel, the herder. These brothers brought their sacrifices to the Lord, and the Lord was pleased with Abel's sacrifice. To the brotherhood of men who dwelt on the earth, it must have seemed that whoever was in charge was letting the herders partake of more then their fair share of the bounty. In their disputes over land and water rights, the in-group of herders found that they had to band together to protect themselves against enemies entrenched on the soil. The herding tribes had to battle for their rights, and they needed a god to take along with them in battle. It would never do to take a female goddess. Men invented a warrior god, who would slay their enemies with the breath of his mouth. Women had a tendency to stick with their familiar agricultural and household deities.

Occasionally the women went off to war, and did battle beside the men. We do have our Joan of Arcs and our Molly Pitchers. However, for most of the women, their responsibility became to take care of small children at home. If you are a nursing mother, you are the logical person to baby sit. In sections of ancient Greece you might find women and children on the side lines of the battle, watching the show like a football game. When the contest was over, the women ran the risk of being raped and killed, and of having their children killed. They ran the same risks if they remained quietly at home, so probably felt it was better to know the results of the battle first hand.

Among the Norse peoples, there remains the legend of the Valkyries, warrior women who hovered around the field of battle, and were valiant with weaponry. The belligerent Amazon women of North Africa are described by the historian Herodotus writing in the 5th century BC.7 To be a warrior was not always forbidden to a woman, but it was a duty that was usually assigned to the males. Thus males drifted into the privileged mode. The female became the operator of the household and became accustomed to performing all the tasks connected with it. The male was often out protecting this household, and when he was at home, he was there to rest and recuperate for his next sally out into the fray.

1.7 Men As Sole Dispensers of The Religious

Physical differences between human beings influenced the roles that were appropriated by men and women. Menstruating women were handicaps on hunting expeditions. Women as producers and child bearers became valuable at home. Men were valuable as protectors. The notion arose that without protective men who were willing to do battle, the tribe could not exist. Of course it was equally true that without women, the tribe could not exist, so the conclusion was that the women had to be protected as valuable property. Men have continued to have this protective notion down through history, and they often exercise this protection in a violent manner. From what are they protecting us? They are protecting us from other warlike men like themselves. One wonders if the Greek women, and perhaps Canaanite women, were nearby at the outcome of a battle, so that they could pick their next lord and master from among the winners. This game of protection was the only life style they knew, and they became accustomed to passing from hand to hand.

This protective situation is reflected up into the heavens, where we find a God who protects his people, and we get the hierarchy set up of God protecting males, males protecting females, and females protecting children. Of these children, the male children became more important. Male babies were preferred to female. Similar notions have persisted in our present day societies. Religious ceremonies developed around the male. Health reasons necessitated circumcision, and it became incorporated into worship. Puberty rites acquired religious overtones as the young male became ready to be transferred from the female realm to the holy state of the male protector of women. Before venturing out on a hunt or raid, the males would hold ceremonies, often taboo to the women, in which they would seek the protection and aid of their god. Religion became the tool of the male. Men did the circumcisions; they held the puberty ceremonies; they underwent ritual purifications before going to war. The male-god religion belonged to the men. Women with their household goddesses were relegated to the background.

This process of the denigration of women to the point where they became property, can be traced historically in the worship given to the early gods and goddesses of the Near East. At the dawn of history, the mother goddess reigned supreme. Countless centuries passed and then stories appeared of the all-powerful mother goddess who had a human son whom she crowned king and god. The sex of the tribal leader on earth, was directly connected to the concept of who ruled in heaven. The earthly king not only ruled by divine right but came to be considered as a divine being. Thus, the next step historically, was that we had an equal pair of gods, king and queen. Finally, we observe a king god and his lesser consort, or a king god and his followers, a god surrounded by hosts of angels. Women have been put completely out of the picture. Jehovah is left triumphant in his male monotheism.

There are vestigial remains of the feminine side of Jehovah's kingship that we can spot in the Bible and in Jewish lore. Thus, the Spirit of God in the Old Testament is represented by a feminine word, Shekinah. The feminine god-mother is also found in the Old Testament in an ancient re-edited section of the Song of Songs, where the crown the king wears, is spoken of as being placed there by his mother (Song of Songs 3:11). In later days the king rules by the divine right given him by a male god. This section of the Song hearkens back to an ancient festival when a male god is given the right to rule by the earth mother goddess. Some of the Psalms such as Psalm 45 are paeans appropriated from the Canaanites in their worship of king and consort divinity. Unfortunately, down through the ages, the feminine in religion and its human counterpart, the woman, have been squeezed into a corner.

We are wise enough to know in our day and age that God is beyond male and female. Our theologies admit that we are too ignorant to fully describe God, yet we are still shackled with a male priesthood, conditioned by years of patriarchal traditions who find themselves threatened by the possibility of women standing equally at their side dispensing religious sacraments. Women don't want to be threats; we want to be helpers. We are not grasping for power, but searching for a loving accepting community to serve with our abundant gifts.

The whole world has been gradually warped in its outlook regarding women. How we see God, as a male, and the supposed necessity for a celibate male priesthood, are only two signs of the disaster that early man's protection of women and early women's over-protection of the male child, has brought upon the world. What manner of world might this be, if women refused to be protected by men, and allowed men to enjoy and share in our peaceful and nurturing household tasks? What sort of world would we have if all women, Russian, Latin American, United Statian, encouraged their sons and husbands (while respecting their personal freedom) to have empathy for all of God's creation and discouraged them from accosting each other with violent words or actions! Or weapons! Or nuclear politics! Women are among the relatively powerless, and can't do much about their oppressed situation. Men are blinded by custom, and can't see how off-balance our male-female relationships are. The warping of the world in regard to women is most obvious in situations such as the burning of the brides in India.8 Even though dowry payments were outlawed in 1961, customs persist that the wife's parents should make post-marriage payments to the family of the groom, as he had taken this unwanted, financially nonproductive creature off their hands. If these payments aren't forthcoming, the easiest way to get rid of the wife is to douse her with kerosene and ignite her, as she is not free to go back to her parents' home. With this instantaneous cremation, the husband can then negotiate new dowry arrangements with another family. Neighbors, law enforcement agents, and courts all look the other way. Viewing this from another culture, we in the United States, can say self-righteously that such actions are indefensible.

What theological notions give justification to the bride-burners of India? In their culture if a woman lives a good, just life, she may be fortunate enough in reincarnation to come back as a man. If she returns as a man, she will feel justified in burning any brides she may have, whose parents negate on dowries. We think that their religious and cultural ideas need revamping. We cannot see as clearly when we turn our eyes to look at our own shortcomings.

What notions of God do we need today in our steel and concrete cities, with our apartment buildings pointing to heaven, and our rockets disturbing the virgin moon? We need a God who will explain us to ourselves, who will curb our violence, and who will help us to love and serve one another. The God of Jesus is still relevant to this task. Women as representing fifty percent of the population, should share equally with men in the worshipful service of such a God.

Jesus considered women as equal human beings with men. Jesus entered into this world situation, observed the treatment of women, and made certain statements, which some men have brushed aside lightly. Jesus called God Abba, which in his culture had the meaning of a wise older person with whom one had a loving relationship.9 He also asserted that God is love, which is a quality that is not the exclusive property of either sex. He went beyond the idea of God as a person, to the notion of God as qualities of personality, to the notion of God working in and through humanity, through his own humanity, through his own hands, as a process bringing into being, The Kingdom. God is the creator, not just of the earth and the past, but the creator process working through every present moment, to fashion The Kingdom; not a static Kingdom or a static point in time to be achieved, but a kingdom or realm or society that is a process like God, the I Am, the Always Becoming. Abraham is part of this process, with his limited view of God. You and I are part of this process, with our likewise limited views. Both male and female share in this process. God does not hold back his Spirit from one or the other.

NOTES

1 Richard P. McBrien, Catholicism Vol. II (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1980), p. 609.

2 Juan Luis Segundo, The Liberation of Theology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1979), p. 8.

3 Merlin Stone, "The Great Goddess: Who Was She?" in The Politics of Women's Spirituality, Editor Charlene Spretnak (Garden City, NY: Doubleday/Anchor, 1982), p. 10.

4 Jean Jacques Hatt, "Celtic Symbols" in The Conversion of Constantine, J. W. Eadie (New York: Holt, Rhinehart & Winston, 1971), p. 34.

5 Jacques Moreau, "Syncretic Propaganda" in The Conversion of Constantine Editor J. W. Eadie (New York: Holt, Rhinehart & Winston, 1971), p. 48.

6 Richard P. McBrien, Catholicism Volume II (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1980), pp. 296-298.

7 Phyllis Chesler, "The Amazon Legacy" in The Politics of Women's Spirituality, Editor Charlene Spretnak (Garden City, NY: Doubleday/Anchor, 1982), p. 105.

8 William Claiborne, "India's Bride Burnings" in The Washington Post Volume I #49, October 8, 1984, p. 9.

9 Joachim Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), p. 11. "For orientals, the word Father as applied to God, thus encompasses, from earliest times, something of what the word Mother signifies among us."


Chapter II: GOD IS PLEASED WITH HER


2.1 Taking Off The Patriarchal Glasses

Lots of us wear glasses. We may think that they help us to see better, and they usually do. Our eyes may have a genetic structural deficiency, and in order to get a more comprehensive view of the world, we must resort to artificial means of enhancing our vision. This is all to the good. We are indeed fortunate that someone invented glasses, and contact lenses, and corrective eye operations.

But the problems that affect our seeing change, and some of us have had the experience of outgrowing our glasses. We get very used to them, and one day after tripping into things and having headaches, we visit the oculist, and are told that we must discard our friendly helpers, the glasses that have aided us for so long. They are no longer the glasses for us. In order to function at our optimum, we need a new pair. We are warned not to overcorrect. If the new glasses are too strong, then our eyes may get lazy, and not exercise enough, and get even weaker. For viable vision, one needs the full cooperation of one's own eyes.

Some of us are very dependent upon our glasses. What a calamity it is when we break our glasses or lose a contact lens, and don't have a handy replacement! Then we have to use our other senses. We feel things, and learn much about shapes and the workings of mechanisms. We listen carefully before crossing the street. We slide our foot up to the curb before stepping down. We glasses people can learn many interesting facts with our glasses off. In meeting people we can confess that we may have met them before, but as we can't see too well, we can ask them to oblige us with information about themselves. Going without our glasses can be an enlightening experience in certain circumstances. It can also involve a tremendous amount of frustration.

Switching from the old glasses to new glasses can open up new worlds. The student can see what the teacher is writing on the board. The driver can see the oncoming cars. The baseball player can bat the ball. We are faced with new possibilities of fulfillment in our daily lives.

So it is when we study the Bible, and realize that for centuries we have been looking at this wonderful inspirited book from a masculine viewpoint. We have studied it through the eyes of the male culture, the church fathers, and the male priesthood. We have seen everything in it against the backdrop of a patriarchal society. The patriarchal glasses are out of date. We need a new prescription. The new glasses do not need to be matriarchal; that might give us lazy and unhealthy eyes or headaches. We need a pair of glasses whose strength lies somewhere in between these two extremes. As our world grows in its understanding of itself, the Holy Spirit gives us new inspirations and deeper insights. "The times of our ignorance God winked at" (Acts 17:30), but for the fullest worship of God and the most fulfilled life, we are expected to seek God with our whole hearts. We must insure that our hearts have good vision.

We said before, that this is a man's world. Men make the decisions. Men run industry. Men fill the armies. Men build the weapons. We women live and move according to the whim of men. It's been that way for a long time, in spite of the fact that fifty per cent of the world's population is female.

When babies come into the world, half of them are girls, unless some sort of population control is used. In present day China, where each couple is advised to have only one offspring, societal beliefs are such that parents feel they will be more secure in old age if that baby is a boy. Ancient China had few qualms about getting rid of female infants. Modern China reports the births of many more males than females, and uses abortion freely. Twenty years from now in China, what will all those men do with so few women around?

If societies were less tilted to patriarchy, and religious groups showed by their words and their actions, the equality of gender, there would not be bride burnings in India, or disappearing female babies in China. The population of a nation should show an equal distribution between women and men, but due to an imbalance in power, drastic problems are created.

What are women doing about that power imbalance that contributes to the naming of us as the weaker sex, and denies us the right to use our womanly strengths of compassion, peace keeping and motherly guidance, for the good of all humanity? If we aspire to political office, we must conform to male social patterns, in order to succeed. Some women seeking a political position seem to pose a subconscious threat by their femininity, and are assaulted mercilessly by males, although a male candidate for the same position, having the same qualifications and opinions, would be considered more than acceptable. If we aspire to the Catholic priesthood, many people just laugh. This is in the United States. The position of women in Korea is even more secondary. Likewise, women in the Muslim community are given much less freedom than the men.

I look for a change in the status of women. We truly are the intellectual and physical equals of men. I should like to show that this patriarchalism in our society wasn't always as bad as it is now, but that it has been reinforced by social customs, and in these later days by writings of the prejudiced, by mistranslations of inspired words, by the reproductions of these errors by the printing press, and most recently by the mass media. Perhaps the printing of more books from a female viewpoint and non-sexist TV shows that represent women as friendly progressive intellects rather than sex objects, would do much to turn around the woman's position as second class citizen.

The great books of religion are disseminated through a patriarchal society, and interpreted from a patriarchal viewpoint. The loving consciousness of God for the human creation is to be found in the Koran and the Bhagavad-Gita, as well as in the Bible. Society believes these books are set down through the writing instruments of men, that God's inspirations are filtered through male minds, and that these filtered ideas are then translated into other languages by still other men. Society accepts these writings as coming from a male led religion. I believe that both the people who wrote and the people who interpreted and translated were guided by the Holy Spirit, but they could say only so much within the confines of their culture and understanding. They were restricted by their male vocabulary, their male supremacist ideas, and the blind spots of their times. The Spirit of God is restricted by the finiteness of the creature through which she speaks. If God speaks through a donkey, he may bray. If he speaks through a duck, he may quack. If God is reflected to us through a cracked or cloudy mirror, our seeing will be hampered by the imperfections of the glass.

This is not saying that a female mindset would reflect God's inspired word faultlessly, as all human beings have their blind spots. It is saying that perhaps a woman's viewpoint would help to get a clearer and more balanced image across. The cracks and blips on the female mirror would be in different places than those on the male mirror; if we combine our insights, we will get a better picture. These male-dominated interpretations of Holy Books have led to societies that are male-dominated. They have often led to interpretations of God as a male being, to placing man next to God, and to relegating woman to the position of temptress to sin.

Women today are questioning this outlook. We feel that the Bible doesn't really teach our inferiority. We know that God is beyond male and female, as far as the heavens are high above the earth. God is equally for the female, as for the male, and in the inspiration of the Bible, God has certainly given equal place to the female in the scheme of salvation. As an example of the importance of women, consider the elevated position of the woman in Revelation 12:1. She may be a figure of a future woman who may give birth to an idea that will bring loving community to the world. In spite of possible biblical interpretations such as this, there seems to be no example today of a matriarchally inspired Word of Divinity, and our present world does not sport any major religious group displaying true female equality.

To add fuel to the fire of the female feeling of inferiority, the Catholic fathers have inserted the feminine into religion in the person of the Virgin Mary as acquiescent and accepting. This is done to encourage Catholic women to keep in their subdued places as mothers and virgins, a difficult combination to achieve, as if to show us the hopelessness of our situation. Patriarchal interpretations of scripture imply that the male (modelling on ideas of a perfect Christ) is the superior creature to the female (giving to her the role-model of an imperfect church). Authoritarian interpreters of Deutero-Paul (a disciple of Paul writing in his name) pull out of Ephesians 5:21-33, the phrase, "so is the husband the head of his wife," as final irrefutable evidence that women must keep in a corner, not seeing that the author was not pushing for male dominance, but for loving unity. A non-patriarchal interpretation of Deutero-Paul would have Christ and the church in loving accord, serving as the model for loving accord between husband and wife. This loving unity is emphasized by the same author in Ephesians 4:2-6, and by the true Paul in Romans 15:7.

Some women seem to feel that words such as these in Ephesians, "the husband the head of his wife," are what hold them down, but I believe the Bible to be an inspired instrument of God, and think that the problem lies in ineffective hermeneutics. I am not proposing a matriarchal Bible or a matriarchal interpretation of scripture. What I am proposing is an egalitarian approach. I would like to go through the Bible and see what it is saying to all people, regardless of sex.

The Bible is doubly inspired; it is inspired in the minds of both the person who wrote, and the person who reads. We like to believe that we understand ourselves and our times, and that we have a certain relationship to God. To appreciate the inspiration of those who wrote, it becomes necessary to investigate the Bible historically, to see the problems of the times of the authors, and to try to see God as they saw God. There are many different types of literature included in the Bible, such as folk history, wisdom literature, theology, prophecy, and historical facts. We must be careful not to get our mythological theological representations confused with factual history. Learning something about the life and times of biblical authors  and the writer's purposes, will help to prevent this type of confusion.

For such a long time, it seems like the Bible has been used as a document addressed to the middle-class male. For instance, Isaiah addressed himself to the average Israelite head-of-the-household who made the decisions for his family. Let's examine Isaiah quickly, and see if there are any vestiges of female undercurrents that have been neglected down through the centuries, because male interpreters were not tuned in to that wavelength. Let's not look at this perusal like I am trying to prove something. Look at it like it is a game, and that the Spirit of God is enjoying the game with us. If we pray, ponder, and search, the Spirit will be with us and open our eyes to new wonders of truth. Any prayerful study of the Holy Word, leads to greater understanding and love among God's people.

I would like to have four major types of people to enter into this lighthearted game playing with me. Some of the women readers will be very relaxed game players, for they are content to go along with our patriarchal society. They have cooperative husbands who encourage them to work at a job, or raise a family, or pass time on a golf course. They have met men who will talk to them as equals. They can find fulfillment in this patriarchal society, and they may even feel so secure in society the way it is that they would object to its change, even though change might mean more security for all women throughout the world. Another second group of women are those who have experienced oppression:— battered wives, religious sisters who have been put down by male religious, single women who are not paid as much on the job as their male counterparts, all those who have seen blatant injustices in patriarchal society. This group may play at my Bible game more seriously, even angrily. They may even reach unbalanced conclusions. A third group of readers will be men who are curious or sympathetic, and they ,too, may enjoy the game in a lighthearted manner, and may learn from it, or find themselves enriched with a new viewpoint. The fourth group may not really play my game at all, but they are the ones with whom I most want to enter into dialogue. They will pick up this book because it has been given to them, but they will be bored rapidly. They will think that what I have written is a fairy tale that is unrelated to reality. They are the true patriarchs, and they want the power structures to continue as they have for generations. They feel that what seemed to them to be the truth in the time of Isaiah is good enough for them today. I want to address myself to these people particularly. I want their considered opinions on my propositions. I don't want to threaten them; what I want is consensus. Keep in mind that we are inviting the Holy Spirit to play the game, too. In this book I am making suggestions, and I need input from all types of people in order to rethink my positions, and in order to come up with a more open idea of what the Spirit is saying to all the people of the world.

As we are playing this game together, I would like you to know that I do not feel that I am in the second group of women, the oppressed group. I am willing to show the equality I feel, and to discuss this equality with anyone. I do not feel particularly called to be an authority figure or to direct others in the forms of their religion. My desire is to serve God and humanity, by attempting to contain the message of Jesus in my imperfect words and being, by sharing holy thoughts with others, and by exposing ignored oppressions of the weaker by the stronger. I should like to bring to the fore the faults of patriarchy in our society, so that injustices are made obvious, contemplated, and corrected.

2.2 The Feminine In Isaiah

To illustrate the method I intend to use, let's open the Bible to Isaiah. How can we bring the feminine into this ancient work? What revealing questions can we ask? First we will consider authorship. Could the author of the Book of Isaiah have possibly been a woman? That may be a very foolish question, because in Isaiah 8:3 the writer mentions his wife's pregnancy. The author of that particular section of Isaiah is almost certainly a man. However, biblical scholarship tells us that the Book of Isaiah is a compilation. Many prophets before Isaiah and after Isaiah, contributed. It is written primarily by Isaiah, the prophet, and also by two other main authors, designated as Isaiah II and Isaiah III.

In the old days a prophet had disciples, but they were not called disciples; they were called sons and daughters of the prophet. (Yes, there were daughters, too!) Many women have been called to prophesy down through the centuries. The Holy Spirit is as unpredictable as the wind in choosing through whom to speak, and may pick a person of either gender. Isaiah II and III, the latter two sections of the Book of Isaiah, may well be sections given to the people of Israel from the Holy Spirit through the lips and minds of women. Chapters 40 through 55, the Suffering Servant section of Isaiah, has nothing in it that couldn't have been said by a woman. A woman is much more likely than a man, to understand the position of suffering second-class citizen. Turn to this section in your Bible and read it over, keeping in mind that this is God speaking through a woman, and see if you come up with any discrepancies. Wherever you see the word mankind, substitute the word humankind, as that was the notion in the original Hebrew. Isaiah 42:14 has God crying out like a woman in labor. This isn't a figure of speech a male author would be likely to use. Men have a certain difficulty in internalizing what is going on in a woman's mind and body at the moment of giving birth.

Isaiah 50:6 speaks of a beard, which might identify the author as a man. This particular quote in the Good News Bible goes, "I bared my back to those who beat me. I did not stop them when they insulted me, when they pulled out the hairs of my beard and spit in my face." These terms may be used to mean that the servant undergoes the degradation of nudity (baring the back), helplessness in another's power (plucking the beard), and cursing (spitting in the face). All these humiliations are borne by both men and women.

If we look realistically at the phrase, "pulled out the hairs of my beard," it does seem like a rather strange thing for one human being to do to another. The Jerusalem Bible expresses it as, "I offered.....my cheeks to those who tore out my beard." It is still a little difficult to picture an angry man standing over his enemy, wasting time by tearing out the beard of his humbled opponent. The Douay version is, "I have given.....my cheeks to those who plucked them." The greatest consensus for the original wording has to do with cheeks. Jesus may have given us the most accurate translation of this passage in Matthew 5:39, "If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek, too." Jesus had the knack of making scripture applicable to both men and women.

Biblical scholars interpret the Suffering Servant in many different ways. Interpreted collectively, the Servant is either the ideal Israel of the future, or that group in Israel who represents the faithful remnant.1 Interpreted individually, the Servant is often identified with Jesus, and thus collectively with the church, or the Mystical Body of Christ. I would like to suggest that it can be compared to any oppressed group, and that it can be read by women to console them as they undergo patriarchal oppression. There can also be read into it, the saving of the oppressor group or person, by the loving, nurturing attitude of the Servant.

I can't leave the Suffering Servant without mentioning the birthing-nurturing statement of Isaiah 49:15, "Can a woman forget her own baby?" In our male-run, sex-oriented society of today, we have sadly learned that, yes, a woman can forget, especially when the initiating male steps neatly aside from his part in the matter, and insists that the woman take full responsibility for his irresponsibility and inconsideration. The author of Isaiah 49 felt motherly enough to trust that the majority of women would stick by their infants through most circumstances. This motherly attitude in Isaiah II most likely sprang from a woman's heart.

Isaiah III knows a lot about women, too. This author is credited with section 11:10-16 and chapters 13, 14, 21, 24-27, 34-35, and 55-66.2 Isaiah 13:8 talks about the pain of a woman in labor, not a comparison a man would be likely to use. In another instance the female in chapter 62 is brought out in the many names for Israel. Israel will no longer be called Forsaken or The Deserted Wife. She will be called God-Is-Pleased-With-Her and Happily-Married. Often in the Old Testament Israel is referred to with feminine imagery. Also in the New Testament, the church is called The Bride of Christ.

How are we to understand this imagery by the masculine or feminine author of Isaiah III? If we express a marriage between God and God's people, in terms of a unity of two loving friends, we are inundated with wonderful new theologies. One interpretation might be that God, as Loving Process, has taken as Helpmate in creation, God's people, who are to be partners with God in this loving process. We mustn't be afraid to envision new possibilities of responsibility and loving creativity for the human race.

Paul also saw that humankind had possibilities of entering into partnership with God and used the term fellow workers with God (I Corinthians 3:9). The thought of partnership may also be in the Book of Genesis when God has the first human name the animals. If God works in partnership, shouldn't we also strive for partnership, one with the other? Brides, women, men, children, all the people of the earth all have wonderful potential for partnership. Let's enter into loving community and help to care for God's gift of earth together. Don't complain that we are unworthy to be partners with God. Keep in mind the psychology of self-fulfilling prophecy. If someone calls a child an idiot repeatedly (or in some cases, just once), he may well turn out to be an idiot. If someone tells a child he is remarkable and creative, a partner in creation, with God, he may well turn out to rid the earth of nuclear weapons and disease. Think positively:_ God-Is-Pleased-With-Us, both men and women, all members of the human race. We are his helpmates, God's partners in the creative process of approaching the ideal in world community. If Isaiah III can see God and humanity in loving action together because of her experience of an earthly partnership, let us rejoice in her imagery and absorb spiritual energy from it.

We have not gone into the Book of Isaiah too deeply, just yet. Isaiah is merely my illustrative example of how I plan to operate. I will describe what is patriarchal, and what has been interpreted in a patriarchal manner, and then ask, "Where may we perhaps find the feminine quantity in all this?" How can we tell what is feminine from what is masculine?

Some maintain that there is no difference between the written expression of a woman or of a man, but anyone can tell that the author of these words I am writing is a female, as I give obvious clues to my identity. Biblical authors are not as open in proclaiming their gender, and often the same writing abilities and character traits can be found in both men and women. However, statistically, one finds certain qualities more prevalent in men and other qualities more prevalent in women. Females are more apt to have nurturing-birthing attitudes.3 It is easy for them to be concerned with others, as they get so much practice taking care of their children. Even if they don't have children of their own, society has so often expected them to help their brothers and their fathers and other people's children in certain household and teaching ways, that they are impressed into this nurturing character.

Males don't carry infants in a womb, and their concerns are often more egocentric. They must preserve their own body against the enemy, and secondarily protect their homes. The man goes to the battlefield or to the marketplace, and throws his ego into the conflict. If he is successful in preserving this primary individual, himself, then he usually accomplishes the secondary objective of preserving his family. Men often are seen as having to make quick decisions and having to stick by them, actions such as are necessary in battle. They may tend to think in dualisms, such as friend or enemy, good or evil. If the attack is life threatening, the decision is enemy. Retaliation is rapid. Out comes the sword, and off with his head. There is little place for shades of gray in this type of decision, and little time to talk things out. Man's need for an ordered world, inclines him to emphasize regulations and this form of decisiveness. Of course, not all men conform to this stereotyped image, which gets much of its design and is reinforced from societal pressures.

In sketching the stereotype of the average woman, we might say that women tend to be more empathetic. They often see the other person as some mother's child. They are more inclined to find time to talk things out and to get the other's viewpoint. People are neither good heroes or evil devils. They are grown children, and as we hope others will be compassionate to our children, we give our compassion to theirs. Women who find themselves confronting other women in battle or marketplace, are more likely to sit down together and talk things out. Women find it easier to write and speak with compassion. Women are more natural in the loving servant mode. Different motivations in individuals cause exceptions to these stereotypes. For example, some women seeking success in business, can be very adept at assuming a stereotypical aggressive male attitude.

These male/female stereotypes are very inadequate, but they do have a sort of statistical significance. We should not assume that every time a battle is described in the Bible, that the story is told by a male scribe. Whenever a motherly, compassionate view is in the Bible, we should hold up the possibility that this type writing is at least as likely to have originated with a woman as with a man.

2.3 Language We Use For Divinity

I am not stating here that anyone should accept my feminine interpretations concerning Isaiah, but only asking that they be considered possibilities. I realize that this type of reconsideration necessitates a radical turn around of patriarchal mental processes and will obviously take some time to get used to. It is like substituting the word Mother for Father in the Lord's Prayer. Centuries of custom are difficult to overcome. I myself find it difficult to say, "Our Mother who art in heaven." As a suggestion to increase the amount of understanding between men and women, all of us unwillingly patriarchally-oriented souls should meditate on the Beloved Parent we address in the Lord's Prayer. We could experiment with blessing ourselves in the name of Godhead by saying "In the name of Mystery, of the Human Aspect of Divinity, and of the Spirit of Love," to see how it makes us feel and how it affects our relationships with both God and human. Most of us react against this disturbance of our accepted norms.

Jesus spoke Aramaic, and never actually used the English word Father for the God he addressed. The word abba can have female connotations as well as male. It was a term used for a beloved and respected elder, although in the society of Jesus' time, this honored individual was usually a male. Jesus further qualified the Abba in his prayer, by placing this beloved elder in heaven. A heavenly Parent is quite a bit more than an earthly parent. God is more and beyond any of the terms that we use to describe him/her, and just using him or her is a bit degrading to describe God, and might hinge on idolatry. If we go with Isaiah III and describe God as Heavenly Bridegroom, we likewise limit God, for he/she is more than bridegroom. Karl Rahner comes close to an appropriate title with the word Mystery.4 Moses has God designating Godself as I Am Who Am! (Exodus 3:14). But if humankind is going to name God and be on familiar terms with God, as spouse or child or as co-partner in the process of redemptive creation, there must be an easy child's word to use when we cry out to God. Abba as meaning the wise older person with whom we have a loving relationship, is less sexist to use than the appellation of father. God, Spiritual Being, Love are all non-sexist terms. We don't have to be bound into conformity in our God language.

God's Spirit was given the feminine connotation of Shekinah in early Hebrew. The Spirit of Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs 8 is a female entity. This same wisdom is the Word of Wisdom in John 1:1. This Spirit is given a female name. In the churches of the Eastern rite, there are some under the guardianship of St. Sophia. Did you ever wonder who St. Sophia was? She is not a lady called Sophie who acted out a noble female life. She is the Holy Spirit.5 However, we know that the Holy Spirit, too, is beyond the roles of male and female. In this writing, so that I don't have a lot of he/she interjections, I may refer to the Holy Spirit (who is beyond sex roles) as she, and to God (who is beyond Father or Mother) as he just to be impartial and to keep clarity when necessary, due to the deficiencies of our language. Our patriarchal society has taken the easy way out by referring to both God and Spirit as he. As a result, we have this idolatrous notion of a male God. God is really beyond pronouns. Our language like most languages is very ineffectual in respect to Divinity, but then we ourselves are very ineffectual when we come up against Divinity. Our language is a reflection of the way we are.

2.4 Fathers, Servants, and Bridges

Our language mirrors our patriarchal society. The majority of us accept patriarchal notions, and find nothing objectionable in having authoritative males directing the community. However, Jesus in his span on earth found fault with patriarchy. In Jesus' annoyance with the scribes and pharisees, he advised his followers to call no man on earth their father, as they had one father in heaven (Matthew 23:9). A more ideal Christian attitude might be reflected in teachers and preachers, if they did not lay down the law as authority figures, but guided gently through consensus, appealing to the Spirit of Wisdom. Paul was open to consensus on the matter of head-coverings in church (I Corinthians 11:2-16), but showed that he was a product of his patriarchal society, when he implied to his little flock of Corinthians that he was their one father (I Corinthians 4:15).

Paul displays little humility in I Corinthians 11:1 when he tells his friends that they should take him (Paul) for their model. With this self-inflated attitude, Paul drains some of the weight out of the anti-authoritarian message of Jesus. However, it is true that in Paul's advice to the Corinthians to follow his guidance they were led to a truer worship of God. Following a strong leader at that particular moment in history might have been more necessary for the good of the church, than participating in broad-minded discussions with Gnostics. We should accept that the Holy Spirit was overseeing and protecting the church through the actions of Paul.

Jesus advised us to serve one another humbly in love and to wash one another's feet. The only disciple who is recorded in the Bible for having copied him in foot washing was a woman. Possibly the only disciples who copied him in not being called Father were also women. This is logical, as there are very few people who would call a woman Father. The title Reverend often has the same stratifying connotations, as we do not ordinarily go around calling our friends Reverend. Until we become more complimentary to our friends, we should discard titles like Reverend when they apply to personalities who we do not really know, as they promote class distinctions in the religious sphere. Either all human beings should be referred to as Reverend or none. Certainly, some should not be Very Reverend, implying that others are less reverend.

The term bishop, as overseer, speaks more of a person who has certain responsibilities. The name implies a coordinator of services, though the actual office sets up a father of the fathers. If loving service were the only factor, then women who are presumably unqualified by canon law and by physique to be fathers, might seek the office of bishop, and rid this title of its authoritative overtones, by using it to coordinate loving service to their fellow human beings. We should all become loving coordinators of service to one another, and assist the oppressed and down trodden. I should like to suggest Mother Theresa of Calcutta as Overseer (Bishop) of the elderly poor of India, and organizer of services to them. Women are exceptionally unqualified to be called Father but many of them are very qualified to be loving servants, and are very expert at assisting the oppressed, having known oppression themselves.

My criticism of titles comes from the fact that they contribute to patriarchy. I am not anti-church. I believe that communities must be run in an orderly fashion to be effective, and order requires a certain amount of organization. I am pro-church, and feel reasonably comfortable in the Roman Catholic community, but I feel that the organizers and supporters of this church would reflect Christ more fully if they were less authoritarian and listened to their constituents.

People have different ideas of what church consists of, corresponding to how they are raised and what experiences they have had. Avery Dulles describes different models of church.6 He believes that some people put an emphasis on church as Word of God. Some see church as a service organization. Some see church as community. Some emphasize the sacramental nature of the church, her holiness, her utilization as a container of the spiritual. Some see church as merely a building. Some put their emphasis on the organizational structure. Some feel that without the hierarchy and the Pope, there would be no church. I believe that the Holy Spirit is versatile enough to find different structures and different means of guiding the church, for different times, and that with the Holy Spirit with us, organizational disasters may come and go. Perhaps we would do better in our loving service of others, if we had less authority (copied from the Roman emperor) and had more consensus (guidance from the Holy Spirit). Perhaps bishops and fathers should be required to listen to the consentaneous voice of those they serve, including both men and women.

One official title of the Pope which was inherited from the high priest of the Roman religion is Pontifex Maximus7 which means big bridge, implying that this man is the big bridge from earth to heaven. I feel that we need structure in our worship of divinity:— we do need bridges to heaven. But there may be other bridges than the Big Bridge and humanity will find them, especially if there is a traffic jam on the Big Bridge. Popes are human, and usually work out of the culture that they are brought up in. One has even been afflicted with insanity.8 If they are brought up in a patriarchal culture, their pronouncements will reflect that culture. If the office of Pope disappeared overnight, we would still have access to the love with which God surrounds his creation. Both women and men have been endowed by the loving Creator God with the ability to build the bridges that will help one another into the realm where God reigns.

Church leaders have frequently been cited for closing heaven to the little ones. The sons of Eli were rather imperfect channels of God's grace (I Samuel 2:12-17). Matthew 23:13 has Jesus fretting against the Pharisees, "You lock the door to heaven in people's faces, you yourselves don't go in, nor do you allow in those who are trying to enter!" Ezekiel 34 has a prophecy against the leadership of Israel, "You are doomed, you shepherds of Israel! You take care of yourselves, but never tend the sheep"(Ezekiel 34:2b). Anyone with any position of guidance in the church must continually ask himself, "Am I hindering or helping the flow of God's love to the world?"

Early Christianity didn't have a single Big Bridge. There was much discussion in the separate early communities as to whether James or Peter or even Mary Magdalene was the main leader.9 Jesus revealed much wisdom to Mary, and in the apocryphal Gospel of Mary, we find Peter objecting to the necessity of being instructed by a woman (Mary 17:16-20). This apocryphal gospel was so tilted to the equality of the female with the male, that the fathers of the church didn't appreciate it any more than Peter appreciated Mary. Thus they denied it the right of being put in the canon of supposedly authentic biblical books although there is much more that we could learn about Jesus from studying it.

As the Hebrew scholars formulated their accepted scriptures about 150 AD, the Christians, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, put together their Old Testament canon, about the same time. The New Testament canon was pieced together over the next fifty years, so that by the third century, in spite of a few local disagreements, our New Testament canon was practically what it is today. This arrangement of available literature was the best selection possible for its time. Now that biblical scholarship has reached such a high level of comprehension, I would like to suggest that we reconsider carefully all the literature of the time of early Christianity, and have a group of theological scholars, both men and women, make a further assessment, thus allowing the Spirit of God a new opportunity to give us more information on the words and wisdom of Jesus. I am not proposing a new Bible; I am proposing an augmented and enriched collection of available Jesus material, which is very possible with modern methods of literary criticism. This increased knowledge of Jesus would make for some, a wider bridge to heaven.

In discussing models of church, we must realize that as God is more than anything that we can imagine, so church is more than any set of forms with which we would tie it down. God's Word is more than a book. It is the inspiration that went into that book, and the further inspiration that interprets that book. The church hierarchy is not just a group of authority figures. It is a group of people who ask for God to guide them in their daily lives, so that they may be inspired to guide and to serve others.

Another model of church is the people who interpret God's Word as it stands in the Bible. Jesus says, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst" (Matthew 18:20). When people gather to make Jesus present through remembering him or discussing his Word, that is church. Thus it is very important to remember Jesus correctly and fully, and to have the best possible interpretations of the accepted canon and other related materials. It's possible that our understanding of Jesus' message can be enlightened by additional sources, instead of only the closed and somewhat patriarchal interpretations that would exclude some of the wisdom that Jesus imparted to the loving person who was Mary Magdalene. One of my purposes in writing this book is to try to promote awareness of such information for hearts eager to remember Jesus and his message as correctly as possible.

Early Israel heard the Word partially, from a viewpoint that was often elitist. They believed that God was with them, but not with the enemy. Today we believe that God's Word is addressed to all people. He loves us all, male and female. His Word is balm and healing for all. May the Holy Spirit guide the world to the fullest interpretations of love so that we will not feel it is necessary to have only one narrow bridge to heaven, but will find the kingdom of love realized throughout the earth.

I like to think that I also act the part of a bridge as I write this;_ that there are ways to help bridge the gap between male accented theology and the more female notion of service; that it is possible to reconcile women angry at oppressive social structures with those they see as authoritative fathers; and that by encouraging the use of consensus in mixed assemblies, solidarity will be implemented. As more of us act the part of bridges, more communication will be possible among diverse factions, and the Holy Spirit will be able to be more active in uniting the created minds that she loves so dearly.

My concern is that God's love be equally spread abroad to men and women, by men and women. I want people who are accustomed to a patriarchal and capitalistic society10 to start looking at their society from a new viewpoint. One way to enhance this viewpoint is by examining God's inspired word to men and women, the Bible, and seeing if there are clues that women played a significant role in shaping the Bible or the early church. I would also like to investigate if there are any meanings that have been overlooked in biblical passages, that would increase the love and understanding among both the male and female members of the human race. As our generous Creator seeks always to give us the fullness of loving and understanding Spirit, we will certainly be guided and encouraged in this undertaking.

2.5 Prophets and Charlatans

I have suggested that we consider the possibility of the authors of Isaiah II and Isaiah III both being women. Do you see any glimmerings that this might be so? Have you taken off your patriarchal glasses or at least wiped them clean so that you can take a better look? That there were both male and female prophets, is attested to by Ezekiel. He rails against both kinds. First he denounces false male prophets (Ezekiel 13:1-16), and then he gives equal time to the women who give misleading predictions (Ezekiel 13:17-23).

What did these prophets look like? They may have been a rowdy crowd with drums and trumpets such as Saul met up with in I Samuel 10:5, or they may be more related to people we consider today to be mystics such as Padre Pio or Dame Julian of Norwich. The oppressed and outcast of society were more liable to turn to the ecstatic expression of religion, as opposed to the in-group of religious professionals.11 As women could be cast off by their husbands, and discarded by society, we find more women than men in prophesying groups. The oppressed and unsuccessful in the world are more likely to turn to God in their anguish than are the wealthy and powerful. Thus we find more female mystics than male, listed in the records of the Catholic church. As this male-female ratio probably held as well for ancient Israel, it is highly likely that there were more women than men in the sons or children or group of the prophets (depending on how you translate the community word in I Kings 20:35 or II Kings 2:3). A respectable woman, Huldah, is mentioned as a prophetess in the Hebrew scriptures (II Kings 22:14). Older women whose children were grown might be moved to join the prophethood. Then there were the cast-off women who due to some calamity in their lives, had no means of support, and in their anguish felt the call to proclaim the words of Yahweh to his people, and to urge justice and compassion.

All these prophets, male and female, gave forth with a tremendous output of the Word of The Lord. It was necessary to distinguish true prophets from false prophets, so that the people would know whom to believe. Often there would be a long wait before predictions came true, or were proved false. Frequently the prophet responsible didn't live to see the fulfillment of his rendering of Yahweh's Word. If we have accepted the supposition that there were many women in the prophetic groups of early Palestine, it seems reasonable to assume that many words spoken by women were preserved for posterity. However, when words spoken by women were accepted and repeated, succeeding generations of prophets and scribes would change the language to suit the custom of the day. If a credible daughter of Isaiah came up with an accepted Suffering Servant motif, a son of Isaiah might set down an expression like "plucking my beard" (Isaiah 50:6), to make the saying more understandable to his contemporaneous male-oriented society. In the Bible we may get female authorship filtered through the male, for the purpose of better instructing the privileged gender of the time.

Isaiah III who understood the pain of being called Forsaken, and the joy of being named God-Is-Pleased-With-Her (Isaiah 62:4), was very likely a woman. The pronouncements of Isaiah II also have possibilities of being of feminine origin. Just read Isaiah 53:2-4 from a feminine viewpoint:

It was the will of the Lord that this servant

grow like a plant taking root in dry ground.

She had no dignity or beauty

to make us take notice of her.

There was nothing attractive about her,

nothing that would draw us to her.

We despised her and rejected her;

she endured suffering and pain.

No one would even look at her-

we ignored her as if she were nothing.

But she endured the suffering that should have been ours,

the pain that we should have borne.

All the while we thought that her suffering

was punishment sent by God.

This scripture can be used to describe realistically the position of the oppressed female in Israel circa 500 BC or of the female in parts of Latin America, Africa, or the ghettos and prisons of today.

You have a right to your opinion on the sex of Isaiah II, and I want to reemphasize that my offering of a female gender is only suggesting a possibility. In order to search out other examples of female influence, perhaps we should move on to a pleasanter place than the harsh caves and rude huts of the prophets. Come with me to a beautiful garden! We can discuss who wrote about our first parents, and decide what made this person such an expert on the process of creation.

NOTES

1 Peter Ellis, The Men and Message of The Old Testament (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1976), p. 391.

2 ibid., p. 390.

3 Rosemary Reuther, Sexism and God Talk (Boston:Beacon Press, 1983), p. 236.

4 Karl Rahner, "The Concept of Mystery In Catholic Theology" in A Rahner Reader, Editor Gerald McCool (New York: Crossroad, 1981), p. 120.

5 Elisabeth S. Fiorenza, In Memory of Her (New York: Crossroad, 1984), p. 133.

6 Avery Dulles, Models of Church (Garden City: Doubleday, 1974), p. 31, 43, 58, 71, 83.

7 Hans Kung, The Church (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1976), p. 596. "Pontifex Maximus was originally the title of the pagan Roman high priests."

8 Article on Urban VI, Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1967). Cardinals found him so deranged that they left Rome and elected another Pope.

9 Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 18.

Also see: The Nag Hammadi Library, Editor James M. Robinson (San Francisco: Harper & Row,1977), p. 473, "The Gospel of Mary" 10:1-10.

10 Heidi Hartmann, "The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards A More Progressive Union," in Women and Revolution, Editor Lydia Sargent (Boston: South End Press, 1980), p. 18.

Also see: Richard Edwards, Michael Reich, Thomas Weisskopf, Editors, The Capitalist System (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1977), p. 333.

11 I. M. Lewis, Ecstatic Religion (New York: Penguin, 1978), p. 127.


 

Chapter III: WHO WROTE GENESIS?

3.1 Thoughts On A Garden

The first chapter that appears in the Bible is a good introduction to the complexity of authorship and interpretation of many parts of the Bible. It is not the first chapter that was written, timewise. Although it purports to tell about the first events that took place in our salvation history, it is a relatively recent addition to the Hebrew scriptures. The legend of the origin of the world circulated in many similar forms through many cultures and religions and is very old, but the words that this legend uses are Hebrew words of about the sixth century BC.

Thus Genesis begins "In the beginning." First we are told how God created a good earth and good human beings, and then we have a scene set in a beautiful garden where all is seemingly bliss. The name of this garden is Eden, which means pleasure or delight. Genesis 2:8 tells us that this garden is in the east, but this may be a mistranslation. It is now felt by some scholars that the mistranslated phrase actually means "in primeval times."1 We are doubly confirmed that "in the east" is a mistranslation, as the lands west of the Tigris and Euphrates were at one time called Edinna, and thus we can assume the phrase "in primeval times" as the more probable translation of Genesis 2:8. Another possibility to be considered is that the myth originated in an area west of Edinna which would make the designated direction correct.

By using this phrase the author lets us know that we are dealing with mythical origins. In our day it is the custom to begin a fairy tale with "once upon a time." As soon as we read "once upon a time," we know that we are going to be reading a bit of make-believe. We probably get a similar message from the phrase "in primeval times." The author is telling us that this is a story that happened before there were reliable witnesses. It is a legendary story, where animals talk. It is like an Aesop fable. It is a story that intends to explain why things are the way they are through the use of anthropomorphisms that we are not expected to take literally.

This legendary place of pleasure is a spot where four rivers rise. Two of these rivers are known, the Tigris and the Euphrates. The other two, the Pishon and the Gihon, are unknown to us, but their names mean riverlike sorts of words, like source and bubbling. There are four rivers, as there are


 

four directions to the compass. Perhaps the author is telling us that wherever humankind had its start, it flowed out to the four corners of the earth. The known earth at that time went as far as Cush (Ethiopia) mentioned in verse 2:13. In this manner the author includes all the races as made by God, implying that the black race of people from Ethiopia have their origins in this same type of humanity that is represented in this legendary garden. All of us are made of the same dust of earth with the same ego tendencies, and are inspirited with the breath of the same God. The author of this story appears to be a universalist, and has neatly set down a scene in which all human beings can place themselves.

The earth is barren in Genesis 2:5, but God causes many trees to grow in Eden (2:9), the most notable of which are the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. One might ask the purpose of God planting these trees if he did not intend for humankind to use them. It reminds one of the catechism question, "Why did God make me?" The answer to this question is that God made me to know, love, and serve him on earth (tree of knowledge) and to be with God in heaven (tree of life). The author of the garden story seems to be telling us that God made these trees to be associated with the humanity he had just designed. In telling us what went wrong with God's plan, the author will have to give certain human attributes to God, like authoritarianism, and annoyance at being disobeyed. The author can take these liberties as they fit in with the cultural notions of the time, and do not affect the primary message of the story.

As it is a fable, we know that there is no living biological tree that imparts either eternal life or omniscient knowledge. However, readers or hearers enculturated with the wisdom of the ancient Near East knew exactly what the author was describing in the discussion of the tree of life. Like ourselves, they had meditated on life and death. They had turned some of their kings into quasi gods to make them immortal. The Egyptians believed in after life, and preserved their kings in giant food-filled tombs. At first this after life was just for rulers, then extended to the nobility, and then finally admitted for the commoner. The Babylonians did not follow this trend. For most of them, there was no after life, and thus they were more concerned with justice in the present. The Jews, living mid-way between Egyptian and Babylonian cultures, had adherents to both positions. The Saducees were a Jewish group in the time of Jesus who said there was no resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:23-33), and even today there are Jews with this belief.

The early Babylonians based their non-belief in life after death on the Gilgamesh epic which told how Utnapishtim and his wife acquired a plant


 

that would give them eternal life. Just at the moment when Utnapishtim had this gift securely in hand (or in mind), a serpent snatched the life giving plant away.2 Later Babylonians in a practical manner located their tree of life on earth comparing it with a wise king enthroned by his god, leading his people to loving community. The Babylonian king Assarhaddon3 declares, "My kingdom shall be as salutary for the flesh of men as the plant of life."4 We Christians also contain that same notion in our religion when we consider Jesus as bread of life assisting us to share in loving community. For us, Jesus is the wise leader who re-opens the way to the tree of life.

A second tree that we must look at in a symbolic way is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Certain interpreters have seized on the words good and evil as having something to do with sin. For the author, the expression "knowledge of good and evil" most likely means knowing all there is to know. To know all there is to know does not specify quantities of good or quantities of evil, but merely omniscience, the knowledge of all things.5 When we talk about forbidden fruit as evil, we have missed the point. The Hebrew usage of the expression good and evil as a balance that means all things that go on in the world, is found in other places in the Bible (II Samuel 14:17 as compared to II Samuel 14:20).

The serpent, a Canaanite symbol for life and fecundity, is a very controversial item in this fable. The author is of the Jewish faith, and firmly believes that God is the only God in all the earth. There are no other gods, not even lesser gods. There is no other being with supernatural powers for good or evil. The Jew is to take seriously the command in Exodus 20:3, "You shall have no gods except me." The author is not allowed to believe in a devil, yet has the problem of presenting what went wrong with the world. He is deriving his material from the folk lore of Assyria and Babylonia, which was heavy on gods and goddesses. Early Mesopotamian religion has Shaghan, the serpent god.6 In late Sumerian liturgies we find the serpent goddess Sataran.7 In Egypt the snake was both a symbol of royalty and a powerful evil god Apophis.8 In India the serpent has been a symbol of perfection and wisdom. As this is a fable, the author is allowed to introduce the serpent, but he is not allowed himself to think of this snake as personalized evil or magical power, and he doesn't want us to think of the serpent in this manner either.

The author gives us freedom to interpret this serpent symbol he has introduced, but we are not to give it god-like abilities. Many interpretations have been given to it down through the centuries. It has something to do with what went wrong with the world and with humanity, after God did such a good job of creation. Philo, a Jewish contemporary of Jesus, saw


 

what was wrong with the world as sensual pleasure, and pinned this appellation on the snake.9 Buddhism, too, has a similar thread, representing the egotistical pleasures by the demon Mara.10 The author of the Book of Revelation, also speaking figuratively and apocalyptically, and not going against the First commandment by creating an evil god-type, brings Satan into the picture as the symbol of what is wrong with the world (Revelation 12:9-15). Satan is whatever impedes humankind from entering into holy community. The author of Revelation gives us his faith that we shall solve the problem of what is wrong with the world (Revelation 20:2). We must be sure to take this intelligent serpent in a figurative sense. The author of Genesis also believes there will come a day when human offspring will crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).

Adam and Eve were banished from the garden (Genesis 3:24). To guard the tree of life, God posted cherubs (from the Assyrian word Karibu), mythical creatures who had the head of a human, the feet of an ox, the wings of an eagle, and the body of a lion.11 Creatures like these were used as art forms to guard the entrances to pagan temples. Similar creatures are described by Ezekiel when he has a vision of the majesty of God by the river Chebar in Babylon. The cherubim in Ezekiel's wheeling vision, besides having hoofs like oxen and wings, each has four faces, a human's face, a lion's face, a bull's face, and an eagle's face (Ezekiel 1:6-10). In a second vision of Ezekiel in the year 592 BC,12 the cherubs or supporters of God's throne or chariot, are described similarly (Ezekiel 10:14). It is highly likely that Ezekiel and one of the re-editors of the Garden story were fellow exiles in Babylon who had been impressed with the architecture of the pagan temple to Astarte. They took these literary opportunities of prophecy and folk tale to describe the holiness of their God in terms that their contemporaries could understand. Ezekiel and this editor-author may even have lived in the same priestly exile community near the Chebar River, gone to the same home synagogue, and discussed their literary endeavors and their theology together.

For these authors the cherub was a representation of the awesomeness of the holy, and the difficulty of finding the way to the true presence of God. A later day addition to this theme is found in the description of the four New Testament gospel authors as human, ox, eagle, and lion, implying that eternal life and the holy are found in the words of the gospels. Thus, humankind finds its way back into the Garden where the tree of life grows, through contemplating the message of Jesus. In Genesis 3:24 the humans are banished, but not hopelessly so. The cherubs are put on guard, but Ezekiel describes cherubs as having the hands of men under their wings


 

(Ezekiel 1:8 and 10:8). Human beings such as the gospel authors, with the message of loving community, can symbolize the guardian cherubs who guide their fellow humans back into the Garden. We also might interpret these cherubs as priestly guardians of the holy, human dispensers of the religious, who have both the power to lead other humans closer to God, or the elitist ability to exclude the other, and to prevent humanity from approaching its destiny of freedom and love. Jesus castigates this latter type of guardian when he complains that the Pharisees are blind guides of the blind (Matthew 15:14), and that they prevent entrance to the kingdom of God (Matthew 23:13). For the authors of the time of the Babylonian captivity, the cherubs and the snake are not to be taken literally, but are representations used for theological purposes.

The author of the garden story did not expect his audience to believe in talking snakes or mythical animal-human guardians. Some of his theological message is very obvious. He says that the One God made a creation that was good for God's purposes; humankind has some part to play in all this, but human knowledge isn't quite enough to bring this creation to fulfillment.

There may be two or three writers involved in compounding this theology.13 One of these editors is given credit for the construction of the account of creation in Genesis I. In this imaginative, not necessarily scientific, but theologically truthful description, the author is very careful to tell us that the sun and moon are not gods, as was the belief of some of the Babylonian population that surrounded the Hebrews. He describes purposefully how the only God, the One who existed from the beginning, created all these material things that we see, water, light, animals, and the human being. Thus animals are not gods but only creations of God, and are not to be worshiped as gods. Humankind was pictured in Assyrian mythology as being part god, or descended from a fallen god or goddess, and the Genesis editor wants to correct this Assyrian misconception. In the Genesis theology, humankind is from the dust of the earth, yet its animation comes from the breath of God (Genesis 2:7). We are assured by this author or authors that God created a good world and good human beings (Genesis 1:31). However, something seemed to have gone wrong, and it wasn't because a snake literally talked.

The Genesis writers are inspired by God. If we really want to get the message that God is sending us, we should understand something about these authors. It would help if we had an acquaintance with the authors' cultural backgrounds. We certainly should have proper interpretations of language. Words may mean one thing in one time and culture and have an


 

entirely different meaning only a generation later. Take the word hollywood for example. It no longer means a peaceful wood full of evergreen bushes, but quite the opposite. A drastic change took place in the Hebrew language before and after the Babylonian exile, when the addition of vowels coupled with Assyrian tainted spellings, changed the appearance of many words and place names. In our interpretations of scriptures, we must also keep in mind the value of paper; often abbreviations were used or whole words dropped to save space, as writing materials were scarce.

Finally, for a better understanding of God's message, it isn't always necessary to know history, but we should at least be aware whether we are reading factual history or myth. It would also help to know something about the time, place, and person of each author, in order to better hear what God is saying to us.

3.2 Moses As Author

Having had our Bible for so many hundreds of years, it is rather difficult to visualize a time when there was no Bible, yet God still spoke to the people. Many inspired words of God to the community, were not written down. People kept these precious words in their hearts, and if all those who remembered, died, then the word was forgotten. When the ability to communicate by writing was a rare gift, prophets and story tellers flourished, whose purpose was to entertain, inform, and most importantly to keep God's word before the community. Abraham had no Bible, no written word, but he had a great faith. One place he found God's word was in strangers who came to his tent. Today we can still hear God speaking in the people who cross our pathway, yet we are also the privileged possessors of a book that contains God's words to many generations. With all this reinforcement, we still can't boast too many individuals who measure up to the faith of Abraham. Perhaps Abraham's great faith was in part because he had to search out answers for himself and could not depend on the theological underpinnings of others.

Abraham had heard stories that told of the beginnings of the earth, and his descendents told and retold these stories, and also the tales that told of the exploits of their tribal ancestors. Some of these "in the beginning" stories had been set down by other cultures, as also were tales of a great flood, but the Hebrews probably didn't commit anything to sheepskin, until Moses wrote in the desert, using his knowledge of Egyptian hieroglyphics. What he wrote may have been simple tribal regulations and a description of the high points of the Exodus journey. He also may have written down stories of the ancestors, or these may have been transmitted totally by word of mouth. Women who had tedious tasks such as the weaving of


 

cloth or the preparation of food, would gather into groups and make the time go faster by listening to one of their number tell about interesting events in the lives of their matriarchs and patriarchs. These stories were told and retold for countless generations and may not actually have been set down in writing until the time of Solomon.

Oral traditions moved rapidly in early civilizations due to the aid of both fighters and traders. Homer in the 9th century BC had heard of the literary ability of Moses through folk legend, and celebrated him by describing him as the father of Orpheus, a mythical character famous for music and poetry. Writing also flourished due to the necessity for traders to keep records. The people in Canaan in 2000 BC had a script based on Egyptian hieroglyphics.14 The Tale of Sinuhe is a story recorded in the 20th century BC which related the adventures of a young Egyptian exploring Palestine.15 Both the written and the oral traditions give us much factual insight into the life and history of the times they described. The monumental works of Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey, were proved to contain many reliable historical facts by the German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann.16

Homer was a great poet. We know that he was a man, and that he was blind. We assume that most early poets were men (Sappho perhaps being the exception who gave credence to the rule) and that those who first dreamed up the stories of creation were men, but these are notions that we have absorbed from being the products of a patriarchal society. As the creation stories came out of a period of powerful goddesses, the singers of their exploits may well have been either male or female proponents. Women have been endowed by a generous God with a poetic ability equal to that of their male counterparts, although frequently they have been denied opportunity for expression, except in nursery rhymes, or while dancing or singing for the enjoyment of men.

Noting the equal involvement of Adam and Eve in the Garden story, it seems reasonable to believe that women had a hand in weaving (or a voice in relating) parts of this story or flourishes on it. Most of us have always assumed that the original author of the Pentateuch, or first five books of the Bible, was a male, either Moses himself, or scribes drawn from the Levitical priesthood. The traditional ancestor tales predate the priesthood and the time of Moses. Stories told about the birthing problems of Sarah and Rachel seem to be directed to female audiences and were most likely embroidered upon (females do embroidery) by a female relator. Notice how many story telling words have to do with the tasks of women. We speak of "the thread of a story," of "weaving a tale," of "spinning a yarn." The great


 

mythical singers, the Muses and the Sirens, were female.17 Women had a great deal to do with keeping the oral tradition intact. Women story tellers were just as capable of putting theological touches on their tales as was a priestly relater. Women were products of the same seemingly unreasonable world, and equally anxious to make some sense out of creation. Hence, scribes may have been busy for centuries preserving the wise Pentateuchal words of earlier women.

We also assume that the post-Pentateuchal authors are all men, but our judgment is led astray by the long genealogical lists of male names, necessary in a society where property and job-status were traced through the male line. The patriarchal structure of Hebrew society somehow makes us assume that women could not write or accomplish worthwhile tasks. Even today when picking up a news bulletin describing work done in American prisons, one is confronted with a list of men's names telling what political office they have held, what books they have written, and what outstanding contributions they have made to finance and education. Near the end of the same article is a line, "A great many women have also worked in the female department of the City prisons." No names are mentioned. One hundred lines of print are given to the male, and one single line suffices for the female.18 The article is typical of a patriarchal society. Women consider themselves fortunate when they are allotted a single line.

So it is with the Bible. If any credits for authorship are given, they are handed out to men. If something in the Bible is of doubtful authorship, it is quite possible that it is a male cover-up of a woman's work. I would like to formally challenge this notion that the Bible is written by men, for God speaks through both men and women, and wherever there were men, there were also women, and wherever you have a talented woman, appreciative men will get her ideas into the public view. She may not get credit for the ideas, but the important thing is that the message from the Holy Spirit has been given to the world.

We have a notable exception to crediting biblical writings only to men. The Song of Deborah is acknowledged to be very ancient material. It is probably some of the oral tradition carried along by the weaving and spinning women, when patriarchalism wasn't quite as explicit as it is today. Down through the ages, the song has remained assigned to Deborah, and the male co-star Barak is humble beside her. Jael, another female, is described in this Song as putting a tent peg through the head of the enemy leader (Judges 4:17-22). One wonders how such militant feminine material was allowed to remain and why the whole story was not assigned to Barak. Perhaps women transcribers were influential in keeping this female material


 

in its original form. One must look carefully in the Bible for the work of female hands. For every great man that is mentioned, we might check carefully to see if there is not an equally great woman hidden in his shadow.

We accept Moses as the great law giver of the Hebrew people. We picture him at the foot of the mountain holding up the stone tablets of the law. Today when so many are literate, we are inclined to dismiss lightly that this man had the ability to read and write, as stated in Exodus 17:14 and 24:4. As a clever young man brought up in the household of the pharaoh, Moses may have received training as a scribe, so that he could be useful to his patron, by keeping records of accounts.

Traditionally, Moses is credited with the material in the first five books of the Bible. This material may have been preserved in both oral and written form. One date for Moses' death is the second half of the 13th century BC. His writings were left in the care of both the Levitical priests and the leaders of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:9, 24). Eliezer and Gershom, as sons of Moses, may have preserved their father's work. Joshua, as the new leader of the people, may have transmitted this material. They may have passed it on orally, or inscribed it on sheepskin. The people may have sung some of these words as songs at festivals or even in public drinking places. To insure knowledge of God's Word by the community, instructions were left for the laws to be read every seven years (Deuteronomy 31:10).

Were any women involved in the setting down of these traditions, or in their oral transmission? Moses had a wife, Zipporah, and as her name is mentioned in the Bible, we know that she must have been an important person. Aaron also had a wife named Elisheba, who was a Jewish woman and not a foreigner like the wife of Moses. The prophetess Miriam may also have been responsible for some of the Exodus material. These women may not have received proper credit for their oral or written contributions to God's word, due to the greater male authority placed in Moses. Moses and the sons of Israel are credited with a victory song in honor of Yahweh (Exodus 15:1-18). How do we explain that two verses later, in Exodus 15:20, Miriam is allowed to lead the women in the refrain, which is exactly the same wording as the beginning of the part credited to Moses? Joyful women may have been the first ones to proclaim this poem, and then later authorship was assigned to the male leader of the group. We should encourage more leadership of the Miriam type in our world today and give whole hearted credit to this leadership.

3.3 Literature In The Days of David and Solomon

The Jewish practice of using scribes, who often wrote for another or assembled another's materials, is also significant in understanding the


 

Bible. In the tenth century BC, three hundred years after Moses, we find Solomon reigning prosperously over the Hebrew tribes. There was peace in the land, and Solomon patronized the arts. His most notable accomplishment was the building of the temple in Jerusalem, and on his staff were both priests to formalize the religion of the God of David and also scribes and court recorders to preserve the liturgy and the history of the people of God. I Kings 4:3 names the scribes Elihoreph and Ahijah, and the court recorder Jehoshaphat (who was also recorder under David, according to II Samuel 20:24). Much of what was set down at this time is credited to Solomon or woven together to reflect glory on this supposedly wise king. I Kings 11:41 mentions a record called The Acts of Solomon. This is probably some of the material put together by Jehoshaphat and his associates. It is reflected in I Kings, where we are given The Last Days of David; Solomon, The Sage; Solomon, The Builder; Solomon, The Trader. The commentary about Solomon's problems is a later insert.

The Bible is eager to give credit to its sources of information. Besides II Samuel 20:24 and I Kings 4:3, we are also informed about Jehoshaphat, the son of Ahilud, in II Samuel 8:16. I Chronicles 29:29 tells us that the history of David was written in The Annals of Samuel The Seer, The Annals of Nathan The Prophet, and The Annals of Gad The Seer. There are many other annals and prophecies mentioned in the Bible, assigned to various authors.19

Possible other books worked over at the court of Solomon, along with the early Pentateuchal material, were I and II Samuel, and sections of Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. The Proverbs as we know them, were put together after the Babylonian Captivity, about 600 BC, but much of the book is older. Some of it came out of Egypt with the tribes and may have been relayed in the original Moses material. In Solomon's day, being able to quote proverbs was a sign of an intelligent and gifted individual. Solomon had 3000 proverbs at his fingertips, and also knew 1005 songs (I Kings 5:12). Proverbs 1:1-17 is dressed up to sound like Court of Solomon material, but may have been written during the Babylonian exile by someone who wanted to use the authority of Solomon's name. We have to be very careful in concluding anything definite about dates of editorial inserts. Only through much tedious sleuthing, have biblical scholars come up with tentative suggestions about dates for composition of various sections.

The Book of Ruth may have had its origin at Solomon's court. Ruth was the mother of Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David. Thus what is being set down is a story that tells of the loyalty and goodness of Solomon's great great grandmother, even though she was a


 

foreigner. Ruth may have been a fictitious character, as Solomon took many foreign wives, which was necessary in his position as potentate of the Near East. This story may have been written to quiet the anxieties of a political group of purist Hebrews among his subjects who felt that foreign women were a threat to the community and to the religion of Israel. Solomon may have been causing a scandal to the conservative elements of his population, and the story of Ruth may have been an early attempt at opinion molding. Another possibility is that this story was told as part of the educational process of the young princes. The finer nuances of Jewish laws and customs are included in this tale, and the princes were brought up to be both warriors and judges in the land. The education of David's sons and thus the education of Solomon were given by Jonathan, King David's uncle, and Jethiel, son of Hachmoni, according to I Chronicles 27:32.

The Song of Songs may have been re-edited at this time. It seems to consist of fragments of a great love song or marriage festival recitation, originating back in the days when man and woman were considered more nearly equal than they were in the days of Solomon. These fragments are interwoven with references to Solomon and Jerusalem, to make the reader think that the great lover of the story is really the great king. Of course since it was revised in the time of his reign, the book is attributed to Solomon in its first verse: "The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's."

3.4 Interesting People At The Courts of David and Solomon

The scribes of David and Solomon did a great service to their people and to succeeding generations, by collecting and expanding the Pentateuchal material. Those who study the origins of the Bible today, have a special name for the person of that time whose style is dominant in many of the early ancestor tales. The section of the Pentateuch attributable to him or her is called the J-document, or Yahwist material, as the name of God preferred by the author, was Yahweh. As German scholars were predominant in this particular biblical study, I will use the German spelling of Jahweh, and shall call this person who wrote the J-document, the Jahwist. The preferred name of God used in a similarly re-edited document coming out of the northern kingdom of Israel shortly before the exile to Babylon, was the ancient name Elohim, one meaning of which is God of the mountain. This Elohist section of the Pentateuch, has been designated the E-document. This E-document relates the bare essentials of a story. The J-author is more verbose, a born story teller, a professional who was evidently accustomed to speaking before audiences, and also one who displayed a keen interest in the role of women.

The Bible clues us in to certain story tellers and writers in the days of


 

David and Solomon. The prophetic communities, which contained both men and women, were groups who usually possessed a scribe who was employed in setting down prophecies. In the days when the judges ruled over Israel, there was an attempt by the community to educate some of its members, for we are told that "out of Machir come governors and out of Zebulon, they that handle the pen of the writer" (Judges 5:14). As some of these judges were women,20 we assume that this education was not restricted to men.

I Chronicles 23:4 may be exaggerating a little in favor of David and the Levitical priests, but it reports that when David was an older man, there were six thousand Levites who were scribes and judges. We suspect that Samuel, the prophet who anointed David and his predecessor Saul, as kings, could write, as he reportedly wrote a pamphlet on "The Rights and Duties Of A King"(I Samuel 10:25). Not all kings could read and write. We do not know if Saul could write. In order to be a good king, it was necessary to have a prophet near-by to read directives to you. We think that David could write, and also that his general Joab could read, as we are told that a battle message was exchanged between them by the carrier Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, that led to Uriah's death (II Samuel 11:14). Of course, some other person could have written this message. We are told of Solomon's wisdom (I Kings 5:9-14), but he had no need to write this wisdom down. As king he could afford scribes to jot down his every wise word. He and his brothers had been educated in warfare, diplomacy, and the legalistics of the day by David's relative Jonathan who was described as "both a shrewd man and a scribe," and by an individual named Jethiel, evidently unrelated to David as closely as Jonathan, who perhaps may have been recruited from prophetic origins (I Chronicles 27:32). Scribal guilds as a source of educators, may be the Sopherim of I Chronicles 2:55.21 The Tirathites, Shimeathites, and Sucathites may be priestly or prophetic communities having to do with the names Tikvah (a place), Shemaiah (a prophet), and Succoth (a name having to do with tents or tabernacles, and also with women, which may describe a women's prophetic community). David and Solomon may have used these outside communities for the purpose of the education of their subjects.

Besides outside groups of scribes, there were also scribes working in the palace in an official capacity. Jehoshaphat is mentioned as being the important recorder during both the reign of David (II Samuel 20:24) and that of Solomon (I Kings 4:3). It was probably his duty to set down all the official happenings in the king's reign. He may be the same individual mentioned in I Kings 4:17 as an administrator, perhaps working two jobs


 

for a demanding king. He is called the son of Paruah or perhaps of Pharaoh, which might mean, not that he was the son of the Egyptian king, but that his scribal skills were of Egyptian origin.

II Samuel 8:17 states that Seraiah was court secretary under David. Old spellings of names did not use vowels, so unless the name was a fairly common one, there was plenty of room for misinterpretation of rendering. Consonants were also done with individual design, as there was no standardized printing. Individuals may have written their own names with grand flourishes. When we consider the signatures on doctors' prescriptions today, we can readily understand how the handwritten name could become garbled in Old Testament times. The court secretary Seraiah previously mentioned may be the same individual as Shemaiah, the son of Nethanel, named as a scribe near the end of David's reign in I Chronicles 24:6. As Nethanel was a brother of King David, we may be observing nepotism. An ancient king may have felt safer when surrounded by near relatives.

Also mentioned in I Kings 4:3 are Solomon's scribes Elihoreph and Ahijah who are described as sons of Shisha. A similar name, Sheva, is used in II Samuel 20:25. In Semitic son can be used to denote membership in a group or guild. To be a son of Shisha might mean you belonged to a writers' guild. It also might mean that you belonged to an order of prophets. Ahijah may have been a person from the prophetic community of Shiloh, as we hear of an individual named Ahijah of Shiloh in I Kings 11:29-40. The term son of Shisha may also mean that Elihoreph and Ahijah were hired from Egypt whose king was Shishak at that particular time. Because of our ignorance of the times and the culture, there are many diverse speculations that we can make about the personalities behind these scribal announcements in the Old Testament.

Some historians feel that since Solomon hired workmen from the surrounding countries to work on his building projects, that he also hired foreign scribes, and this may be true, yet there were many available writers in the prophetic communities of the Hebrews. If there were ancient manuscripts set down in Egyptian hieroglyphics, which differed a bit from the local Canaanite writing, it might have been necessary to find some skilled Egyptian translators. Another explanation for the possibility of Egyptian scribes is to be found in I Chronicles 2:34-41. A Hebrew named Sheshan had no sons, so he married one of his daughters to an Egyptian man named Jarha, who was a servant (probably a scribe) in his household. From Jarha came a long line of scribes, including Nathan who prophesied to David in the Bathsheba affair, and Elishama who was scribe under Jehoiakim, the Judean King famous for burning Jeremiah's prophetic scroll (Jeremiah 36:12).


 

Attai, son of Jarha, is father of Nathan, and is mentioned as a trusted soldier of David (I Chronicles 12:12). Thus there may be a genealogical basis for calling scribes sons of Shisha.

David seemed to make it a matter of public policy to hire officials from both the north section of his realm and the south section. Thus he employed Abiathar as priest from the north, and Zadok who was active at Gibeon in the south.22 Solomon may have followed this custom and employed scribes from both parts of the country. As Ahijah was from the north, Elihoreph may have been associated with a scribal group from the south. Elihoreph is a mystery person; I Kings 4:3 is the only place where the name is mentioned in the Bible in that precise form. We find the name Eliehoenai in Ezra 8:4 as descended from Zerahiah of the tribe of Pahath-Moab, and the similar name Elioenai in I Chronicles 4:36 and Ezra 10:22.

An interesting personality that we hear a lot about in the reign of David, is his army commander, Joab. The later history of David's reign according to the Chronicler scarcely mentions him, yet II Samuel and the beginning of I Kings have Joab concerned with almost every event in the life of David. These two biblical books mention the name of Joab's mother and brothers, but never the name of Joab's father. Joab's mother is Zeruiah, one of the two daughters of Jesse, and thus is David's sister. As she has three sons, Joab, Asahel, and Abishai, she may also have had female children unmentioned in the genealogical lists. Many children sounds like a fairly stable marriage, but the name of her husband is not given in Samuel or Kings. There is a possible explanation in I Chronicles 4:12 where Joab, the son of Seraiah, is mentioned as having to do with the Geharashim, or craftsmen (also described in Nehemiah 11:35). It may be that before David became famous, his sister Zeruiah was betrothed to a lowly craftsman, Seraiah, and the royal family did not want to acknowledge this humble tie. Again the Joab in I Chronicles 4, may be an entirely different person. In I Chronicles 12:3 Ahiezer and Joash, sons of Shemaah, desert Saul in Gibeon to join David. If this Joash is army commander Joab, and if Shemaah is a poor rendering of Seraiah and Ahiezer is a poor rendering of Asahel, this verse may confirm the approximate name of Joab's father. On the other hand I Chronicles 4:12 may be writing about Joab, the son of the woman Zeruiah, as another spelling of Seraiah. This Seraiah may not be mentioning a man's name but a woman's name, and I Chronicles 12:3 may be referring to yet another corruption of the name Zeruiah.

Names in genealogical lists can be rather deceptive. Often the word that we thought meant "son of" is used to mean simply "of" and may be referring to female offspring. Thus we must not be put off with genealogies


 

emphasizing the male, but should keep up our search for possibilities of the female in biblical history. We must take off our patriarchal glasses and admit that salvation history may have contained many creative female minds, some well hidden behind our English translation of "son of."

David's army commander Joab, being a good Hebrew, was undoubtedly married. Do we read anything in the Bible about his wife? We hear much about the wives of David, and we hear much about Joab himself. From the stories related about him in II Samuel and I Kings, it can be seen that Joab lived a rugged individualistic type of life. He may have been associated, at his home base, with a community of crafts people and back-to-nature artists who told stories while shaping their pots and weaving their tents. His sisters, wife, and children, may have remained with this community. As commander of the army, he seems to have inspired loyalty from his soldiers. At one point David became annoyed with Joab and fired him, and appointed as army leader, the son of his other sister. Joab seethed with jealousy, and took the first opportunity to slay his rival cousin and get back his job. His uncle David was helpless before the situation that developed and was evidently fearful of Joab's influence with the troops, so he returned nephew Joab to the job of army commander. Unfortunately, later in his life, Joab supported the wrong son of David for successor and was slain on the altar by the order of his cousin Solomon (I Kings 2:34). Where upon Joab "was buried at his home in the wilderness" (I Kings 2:35).

One of Joab's friends from his wilderness retreat, may have been a story teller from Tekoa. When David's son Absalom killed David's other son Amnon as punishment for the rape of Absalom's sister Tamar, Joab brought his storyteller friend to David, in order to arrange for Absalom's forgiveness (II Samuel 14:1-24). If we examine this tale carefully, we can see that it is the same type of story telling that is evidenced in the Garden story; also the same as the Sarah and Rebekah stories, and the story of Bathsheba. These stories are typical of the skill of the Jahwist-editor of the Pentateuch. The story of Cain and Abel has certain things in common with the problem of Amnon and Absalom. Cain's punishment is banishment, and Absalom has also been banished. The phrase "discerning good and evil" used by the story teller from Tekoa in II Samuel 14:17, is the same language used by the author of the Garden story in Genesis 3:5. It seems that the writer relating the story about the woman from Tekoa uses the same type words and is most likely the same person as the Jahwist-editor of the garden story. Seeing that the Jahwist-editor knows so well all that went on at this meeting between the woman from Tekoa and the king, I would like to suggest that the Jahwist-editor is this identical person, the


 

woman from Tekoa. The actress at David's court relating this make believe incident about herself and her two feuding sons, just might be the same person as the story teller who wrote it down.

I would like to set down some further possibilities that I have drawn from this incident which is related as happening at David's court. I see the Wise Woman of Tekoa presenting herself as the person who influenced King David to forgive his son Absalom. It may be that in the time of King David this Wise Woman gained fame as a teller of tales. In the prophetic or craft community at Tekoa, she may have been the skilled carrier of the tradition. As the possessor of this traditional knowledge, this Wise Woman may well have been brought to the school room to teach proverbs to the king's sons. It may be to her that Solomon owed his ability to quote 3000 proverbs and his reputation for wisdom.

3.5 The Jahwist Editor

A woman storyteller from a prophetic community would be the logical explanation for the deft way in which the Jahwist relates the tales of women. The Jahwist is credited with the basic story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:4b-3:24, with stories of Sarah (Genesis 11:28-30; Genesis 12:10-20) with the problems of Lot's daughters (Genesis 19:30-38), with Isaac's wife Rebekah (Genesis 24:1-67), with much of the material having to do with Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29:1-31)(Genesis 30:25-43), with the rape of Dinah (Genesis 34:1-31), with Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38:1-30), and with the temptation of Joseph by Potiphar's wife (Genesis 39:1-23), yet not with the interpretation of dreams by Joseph. We find the same style in the Book of Samuel where Hannah has a problem becoming pregnant (I Samuel 1:1-28). We find the touch of the Jahwist in the story of Saul who is depicted in a rather derogatory manner on the day of his acclamation as king (I Samuel 10:22), and also in his consultation of the witch of Endor (I Samuel 28:3-25).23 There seems to be a personal interest by the Jahwist in the relating of the killing of Joab's brother Asahel, who "could run as fast as a wild deer" (II Samuel 2:18-32). We are even told that the young man was buried in the family tomb at Bethlehem. The Jahwist may have been at the tombsite in person to comfort the young man's mother Zeruiah or his wife. The Jahwist tells us of David's love affair with Bathsheba, and as Joab is an important part of this story, we suspect that the Jahwist's source of information is Commander Joab. More serious is Joab's involvement with Absalom, and the whole affair with Amnon, which is also in Jahwist style with Joab as probable source.

Bible scholars believe that the Jahwist lived at least up to an early point in the reign of Solomon. We have a Jahwist type tale in the story of


 

the two women in the same bed with the two babies. One of the women smothers her baby and each woman insists that the remaining baby is hers (I Kings 3:16-28). This tale may have originally been David material, transferred to Solomon's name when he became king, to give him status. However, if the Jahwist were so fond of Joab, it is hard to believe that she would willingly say such good things about Solomon who had ordered Joab to be killed.

Another reason sleuthing Bible scholars believe that the Jahwist was still active in the reign of Solomon, is that in Jahwist material in Genesis 27:40, the author predicts that Esau or Edom will shake free of its bondage to Jacob. Early in the reign of Solomon, Hadad the Edomite returns from Egypt on the death of his persecutors David and Joab (I Kings 11:14-22). The Jahwist may still have been active at Solomon's court, saying or writing appropriate things about the new king, to prove his or her loyalty to the new king, and to protect his or her own life, and the best interests of other out-of-favor friends or relatives.

As it is possible to pinpoint a time and place of operation for the Jahwist editor or author, there should be some mention of this personage in the Bible, as a great story teller who entertained people at David's court. If this person were a man, we could single out the scribes Jehoshaphat, Ahijah, or Shemaiah as possibilities. The scribe Elihoreph, who might be a man or a woman, could also be considered. From the feminine interests of the Jahwist story teller, we have a deep suspicion that this person is a woman. From her interest and her knowledge of the actions of Joab, we suspect that she is somehow affiliated with this commander of David's army. As we search in the Bible for a woman with literary ability, who is also a friend of Joab, we are struck by the story in II Samuel 14, that introduces us to the Wise Woman of Tekoa.

In researching this story of the Wise Woman more fully, we find that the incident takes place after David's son Absalom killed his half brother Amnon as punishment for the rape of Absalom's sister Tamar. An interesting side fact is that Amnon was heir apparent, and Absalom had his eye on the throne. David had banished Absalom for the crime, and Joab was put in the position of being asked for assistance by the new heir apparent Absalom. Joab was placed in a difficult spot politically. Today we have laws that a murderer cannot inherit, and today Absalom would have been disenfranchised. David could have had Absalom executed legally, but had been very gentle towards his son and only banished him. Absalom wanted to get back into David's good graces, and back into line for the throne, so he put pressure on Joab.


 

Joab "sent for a clever woman who lived in Tekoa" (II Samuel 14:1). This is a woman that Joab knows will put on a good act and tell a good story. This woman is a friend, perhaps even a relative, who will do Joab a favor, even though there is a bit of a risk involved. If David discovers her deception, and becomes angry, he could dispose of her lightly. The woman pretends that she is the mother of a son who has killed his brother. Her near male-relatives want to punish her remaining son, and thus inherit his property. She wants her son's legal rights established by the king, so that she herself will be secure in her old age. She thus gets David to agree that the son who committed the murder will come to no harm. Then she turns the tables on David, and asks him to consider the legal rights of his own son Absalom (which include throne rights), although Absalom is likewise a murderer. She wins her case, but David becomes suspicious and does recognize her as an associate of Joab.

It seems highly likely that we have here in this story, the very woman whose identity we are seeking as the Jahwist editor. Not only is she a great lawyer, as she argues the case of Absalom very cleverly, but the Wise Woman from Tekoa is also very probably the Jahwist editor of Genesis and the celebrated story teller at David's court. As she is described as wise, she may have had the ability to write down her stories herself, or David may have been impressed with her acting ability, and advised his scribes to busy themselves taking down her words. He may have sent her to the classroom run by his relative Jonathan, to have her tell her stories to his sons, the princes. Jonathan may have written her stories down, as we know that he was able to write. Jonathan may also have heard her story about Ruth, and written down his own version of the tale.

As the story of Ruth is a story about women, it is possible that it came from the mouth of the Jahwist. As Joab was a nephew of King David, his mother Zeruiah being a daughter of Jesse who was David's father, Joab and his friend or relative from Tekoa would also be interested in Jesse's ancestry and knowledgeable about it. Thus the Wise Woman from Tekoa would certainly have the information to set down or to make up a credible tale of Ruth.

3.6 The Elohist Editor

In considering personages at the court of David, there is the possibility that the Jahwist editor of the Book of Genesis may be the woman described in II Samuel 14 as the Wise Woman of Tekoa. Bible scholars agree that the Jahwist wrote major portions of Genesis, but there are other authors and editors who also made additions. A lesser portion of the work is credited to an author called the Elohist by today's scholars because his favorite name


 

for God was Elohim. The Elohist is associated with the northern kingdom of Ephraim, and he calls the covenant mountain, Mount Horeb, rather than Mount Sinai. The people of the land of Canaan are referred to by him as Amorites rather than Canaanites.24 It is my belief that the Elohist tradition had its start at the courts of David and Solomon, and that the originator of this tradition had the privilege of hearing the tales of The Woman of Tekoa. I would like to propose that the scribe Ahijah mentioned in I Kings 4:3 rose in prominence to become the controversial prophet Ahijah of Shiloh, that he laid the corner stone for the Elohist tradition, and that his compiler is the contributor to the Elohist section of the Pentateuch.

Who is this compiler? Could she be a woman? If we investigate the life of Ahijah, we may learn something about the Elohist editor.

The first mention of the name Ahijah in the Bible is at I Samuel 14:3. He was acting as priest, a combination oracle and army chaplain, for King Saul who was fighting the Philistines near Gibeah. Ahijah's lineage is given as the descendant of Ahitub, who was the descendant of Phinehas the son of Eli. In the days of Saul, who had been anointed king by Samuel, the priests who were descended from Aaron through the priest Eli, had a malediction hanging over their heads. During the Exodus, God had chosen Aaron's sons to serve as priests for all time, but the sons of Aaron's descendant Eli, had proved to be such inefficient servants of the Lord, that God regretted this choice. Because of God's promise to Aaron, God does not totally wipe out the line of Eli. He leaves a remnant of them to be priests. "Yet I will keep one of your descendants alive, and he will serve me as priest. But he will become blind and lose all hope and all your other descendants will die a violent death" (I Samuel 2:33).

Thus while there was status in being a Levitical priest, there was also this discouraging prophecy against the sons of Eli. King Saul was the instrument God used to fulfill the second half of the I Samuel 2:33 prophecy. Saul feared that the priests who were Eli's descendants, were deserting him for David, so he killed all of them that he could get his hands on. In David's reign there was a reorganization of the priesthood ostensibly due to this slaughter of priests at Nob (I Samuel 22:11-19).

Another priestly line mentioned, seems to start with Zadok, the son of Ahitub (II Samuel 13:32).25 II Samuel 8:15 states that David's male relatives were priests, which may only imply that they played the important priestly role of advisor to the king. A full priestly role would have been frowned upon as tribally they were not Levites.26 However, if there were a shortage of priests and male priestly heirs were not available, Levitical daughters would be allowed to marry non-Levites in order to bring posterity


 

to a tribe.27 After the slaughter of the priests at Nob, females from the tribe of Levi may have been the tenuous link in the chain of the Aaronic priesthood. This might have been the situation at the start of David's reign, so his plugging of relatives into the priesthood may have been excusable. However, we are not told the name of the woman who may have been the matriarch for the Zadok line of priests. Her name was certainly not Zadok as this gentleman is described as performing priestly duties in II Samuel 8:17. Perhaps this female link is hidden under the name of Ahitub. This woman may have been a daughter of Hophni or Phinehas (I Samuel 2:34), the notorious sons of Eli. Wherever the name Ahitub is mentioned in the Bible, it is only associated with someone who is the progenitor of priests, and never as an active priest. Ahitub would be a good name for a woman who filled in for slaughtered brothers, as one of its meanings is "my brother is good."

Of the men mentioned as sons of Ahitub, Ahijah, as faithful army chaplain for Saul and also son of both Ahitub and Eli, may have been killed with the rest of the priests at Nob, or he may still have been on Saul's good side and escaped from the political scene. If he escaped, he is probably the gentleman, Ahijah of Shiloh, who lived to blind and hopeless old age, fulfilling the first section of the prophecy made to Eli (I Samuel 2:33).

In I Kings 4:3 we hear of an Ahijah as court secretary under Solomon. This Ahijah, the scribe, may be the same person as Ahijah of Shiloh, as a scribal history of this period is entitled "The Prophecy of Ahijah of Shiloh" (II Chronicles 9:29). This is probably the same individual who prophesied in favor of King Jeroboam in I Kings 11:29-39. Thus, when the northern tribes revolted against Solomon, Ahijah found it convenient to leave Jerusalem and to go north with Jeroboam and the Ephraimites. He returned to the priestly village of Shiloh (the home of his ancestor Eli).28

However, Jeroboam, the king of the northern tribes, did not live up to Ahijah's expectations for him, and deserted the God of his fathers, setting up two bull calves of gold for his people to worship (I Kings 12:28). Ahijah, and more importantly, God, considered Jereboam no longer fit to be king. When Jeroboam's son became ill, his mother, Jeroboam's wife, went laden with gifts to the prophet Ahijah at Shiloh to ask if God would heal her son (I Kings 14:1-19). Ahijah was blind, so he could not see the woman, yet God told him that this was Jeroboam's wife, and he gave her the message that her son would die, and that her husband's dynasty would be destroyed.

As Ahijah was blind, he did not write down the particulars of this interview. Who was the assistant to the prophet, who wrote down this incident, and God's prophecy against Jeroboam?


 

If we search out the identity of the original transmitter of the Elohist tradition of the Pentateuch, it seems that Ahijah of Shiloh has all the proper qualifications. If he were in residence at the courts of David and Solomon, he must have had an acquaintance with the folk stories of the Jahwist story teller, the woman from Tekoa. After hearing her tales, he could have transmitted his own more sedate versions. When the kingdom fell apart and Ahijah had to flee northward for safety, he may have had to leave his scribal treasures behind, but he carried in his mind, stories and prophecies which he could dictate to another.

As we said before, the Elohist editor of the Pentateuch has certain characteristics. He prefers Elohim for the name of God. This name has certain plural connotations of the totality of God29 and means "divine being."30 The Elohist gives prominence to northern folk heroes, such as Joseph and his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, and is concerned with the priestly business in the shrines of Bethel and Shechem in northern Israel. He is not too concerned with the royal line of Judah and the kingdom of David.

Ahijah is given credit for certain written material (II Chronicles 9:29), yet in his old age he was blind, as described in I Kings 14:4 and as prophesied in I Samuel 2:33, and he could no longer see to write. Someone else must have set down the story of Jeroboam's sick son, and the prophecy concerning the downfall of Jeroboam's dynasty. Perhaps Ahijah had a son who wrote it down for him, or perhaps seeing it was foretold in I Samuel 2:33, that he would lose all hope, that this descendant of Eli had no sons. Having sons was the early Hebrew's way to achieve immortality. If you had no sons, you had no chance to be alive in your posterity, and you might well have it said about you, that you had lost all hope.

Today we think of the model Catholic priest as not having a wife, but in Solomon's time, all good Jewish priests had wives. They were expected to have families, so that there would be priests to take over the duties of the priesthood from their fathers. Jobs were handed down, guild-like, from father to son. If you had no sons, you might have to use a daughter.

If anybody did any writing for Ahijah in his blind old age, it seems likely that it was not his sons. It may have been left up to his wife or daughter or a male or female member of the Shiloh prophetic or priestly community to write down the words of the aging prophet. Again we have a possibility of a feminine transmitter of biblical material, for in the Elohist sections, a woman may be doing scribal duty for the prophetic community at Shiloh.

The story of womanly interest told about the wife of Jeroboam has a Jahwist flair. Could the wife of Joab also have retreated to the northern


 

kingdom on the ascent of Rehoboam to the throne in Jerusalem? Some intermediary male or female scribe, with a northern upbringing, may have combined material brought from the south, with the political interests of the northern kingdom and with a slightly different theological emphasis.

In the David and Solomon era, we have two writers who both contributed much to the Book of Genesis, the Jahwist authoress from near Jerusalem, and the Elohist compiler who seems to have used materials acquired through both the Jerusalem Kingdom and the northern Kingdom of Israel. The most likely candidate for the Jahwist with her tales of womanly concerns, is Joab's friend, the woman from Tekoa. A possibility for the Elohist writer is someone near to Ahijah in the Shiloh community.

If we consider Moses as another possible contributor to Genesis, we have mentioned three Genesis authors, and we still haven't assigned the theological material in the first chapter of Genesis to any one of them. We will have to trace the history of the Hebrews into the Babylonian captivity of the sixth century before Christ, in order to find the writers concerned with the necessity for Sabbath rest and the notion of One Holy All-encompassing God.

NOTES

1 William F. Albright, Yahweh and The Gods of Canaan (Garden City: Doubleday, 1968), p. 97.

2 William F. Albright, From The Stone Age To Christianity (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1946), p. 148.

3 The country of Babylonia was dominated by Assyrian kings, of whom Assyr-Haddon ruled from 680 to 668 BC. He followed Sennacherib of II Kings 19:35-37. (This information is from Encyclopedia Americana Vol. II , 1949 edition, p. 430.) The words of Esarhaddon (Assyr-Haddon) were probably recorded in the time of his follower Assyr-Banipal (668-626 BC) who patronized the arts.

4 Peter Ellis, The Men and The Message of The Old Testament, (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1976), p. 99.

5 ibid.

6 William F. Albright, loc.cit., p.143.

7 ibid., p. 144.

8 W. S. McCullough, Interpreters Dictionary of The Bible, Vol. IV (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), p. 290.

9 ibid.

10 Paul Carus, History of The Devil (New York: Land's End Press, 1969), p. 107.

11 Peter Ellis, op.cit., p. 100.

12 Jerusalem Bible, Reader's Edition (New York: Doubleday, 1968), footnote p. 1181.

13 Peter Ellis, op.cit., p. 5; also E. A. Speiser, Anchor Bible, Genesis (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983), p. xix.

14 John Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1972), p. 38.


 

15 ibid., p. 54.

16 Greece, Foto Olympic (Athens: Dekopoulos, no date), p. 6.

17 Bella Debrida, "Drawing From Mythology In Women's Quest For Selfhood" in The Politics of Women's Spirituality, Editor Charlene Spretnak (New York: Doubleday, 1982), pp. 139-140.

18 Correctional Association of New York, News Bulletin # 2, October, 1984, pp. 2-3.

19 Solomon's history is recorded in The History of Nathan The Prophet, The Prophecy of Ahijah of Shiloh, and The Visions of Iddo The Seer (II Chronicles 9:29). Rehoboam, the king of Judah after the split of north and south, has his history related in The Annals of Shemaiah The Prophet and Iddo The Seer (II Chronicles 12:15). His son Abijah is described in The Midrash of The Prophet Iddo (II Chronicles 13:22), and we may assume that Shemaiah passed on, and is no longer recording. The history that tells about the son of Abijah, King Asa, no longer mentions Iddo, but is called The Book of Kings of Judah and Israel (II Chronicles 16:11). Isaiah, the son of Amoz, is mentioned as one of the contributors to this Book of Kings under the later king, Hezekiah (II Chronicles 32:32). Other unnamed seers along with King Manasseh have material in the Annals of Kings (II Chronicles 32:18). The Prayer of Manasseh is found in some editions of the Apocrypha, so the Chronicles are setting down sources some of which are able to be substantiated, as noted in Jerusalem Bible, Readers Edition (New York: Doubleday, 1968), in the footnote on page 491.

20 Deborah is a noted example of a female judge (Judges 4:4).

21 Jacob Myers, The Anchor Bible , I Chronicles (Garden City: Doubleday, 1965), p. 16.

22 Robert R. Wilson, Prophecy and Society In Ancient Israel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973), p. 265.

23 Could the Witch of Endor be someone from the same prophetic community as the Wise Woman of Tekoa, or perhaps the identical individual?

24 Peter Ellis, op. cit., p. 101.

25 I Chronicles 27:32 gives Jonathan as King David's uncle. I Chronicles 6:9 lists Azariah as son of Johanan in the line of Zadok.

26 Men of other tribes had the option of becoming Levites. See John Bright,op. cit., p. 163.

27 Daughters could legally produce male heirs for their fathers, if there were no sons. See Numbers 27:1-11 and the example of Sheshan in I Chronicles 2:34.

28 I Samuel 1:3.

29 E. A. Speiser, op. cit., p. 7, # 26.

30 ibid., p. xxii. Other thoughts on the subject might include that Elohim, meaning "All That Is," finds a following in panentheism, while Yahweh, meaning "I Am Who Am," has adherents in process theology.


 

Chapter IV: THE TOUCH
OF A WOMAN'S HAND

4.1 Authorship of The Pentateuch

The first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, are called the Pentateuch. This is a compilation of several distinct authors. First it contains original Moses material which was transmitted both in writing and orally. Some of this oral material is contained in the ancestor tales. We have discussed the Elohist version and the Jahwist version of this material. A little later an author termed the Deuteronomist added the Book of Deuteronomy which contains laws and information collected from prophetic and priestly sources in the north of Israel.1 Next a person connected with the southern nobility of Judea, wove in the Priestly material (which consists of the regulations, land divisions, legalities, and genealogies largely found in Exodus 25 through Leviticus to Numbers 10) with the Jahwist and other material, giving us the Mosaic-Jahwist-Elohist-Deuteronomist-Priestly Pentateuch (M-J-E-D-P Pentateuch) in the 6th century BC which is essentially the Pentateuch that we have today.

The organization of Genesis is credited to the Priestly author. His, is the "In the beginning" prologue.2 He includes both the Jahwist and Elohist thoughts on The Garden, updating their theology to his day, and throws in a few genealogies as he goes along, to emphasize that the Jews are God's chosen people, chosen to bring God's enlightenment to the nations. He inserts the Priestly traditions at the appropriate points in the Exodus story, and strives to set down all the available material. He leaves out nothing. Thus we are often left with puzzling little pieces that don't quite fit, such as the mention of circumcision in Exodus 4:24-26. Our editor may be working with damaged manuscripts. It is difficult to sort out the true Moses material, when working through all of these overlays.

Most people assume that these inspirited embroideries on the work of Moses were done by male scribes as they were thought to be the select group who possessed education. People visualize saintly looking males with doves hovering over them or halos around their heads, putting down on scrolls the word of God as it came to them in their time and in their


 

culture. Suppose some historical situation developed, so that it became convenient for women to do some of the scribal work? How would women have revitalized Moses for their contemporaries? Women often see situations differently than men. Men's minds can be more legalistic and dualistic. Men see facts, while women are often more intuitive. Like God, the Pentateuch has both motherly and fatherly aspects. Consequently, I should like to suggest that its final compiler, the Priestly author, may be a woman working under the guidance of a man, or may be a woman striving to please a patriarchal community.

I would like to try to prove to you that there may have been still other women among the biblical authors, so that people today can think of women as being equal to men in their knowledge of God, and as equally beloved by God. If people contemplated the feminine aspects of God, as well as the masculine, and acknowledged the presence of women as important in religious history, it might help to make our society less patriarchal.

There are problems in our present day world that would be alleviated if men and women were more accepting of each other. Many men treat women as if they were somehow deficient in mental or physical quality, or as if the women had been created solely to gratify men's sexual appetites. Many women act as if men were just little boys grown up, who still didn't know enough to wash behind their ears. Because of these attitudes, we have womanly poverty, in our own country and in the third world. We have a vast prison system to contain those men and women whose maturity has been stunted by a social and educational system that does not suit their needs or build their self image. We find that in our society women and men do not respect their own bodies, or the bodies of others, and that they promote the legislation of infanticide and abortion clinics to gloss over their own insecurity and irresponsibility. Some of us do not respect each other's minds, and we allow the flow of indecent literature and degrading telecommunications. We have men engaging in confrontational nuclear politics. If women were accepted equally with men in community leadership, the whole world would benefit from the more relational female viewpoint.

If our patriarchal society could accept the idea that women's God-guided hands set down some of the wisdom in the Bible, perhaps they could also see the need for women's guidance in our culture today. For this reason I want to reemphasize my position that the Jahwist editor of the Pentateuch is a woman. Next, I should like to discuss the feminine identity of the Deuteronomist. Then I would like to propose the possibility of a feminine author for the Creation Story of Genesis 1. Finally, I would like to examine the possibilities of the feminine in the ancient traditional Moses material.


 

 

4.2 The Feminine Identity of The Jahwist

That the Jahwist author, whom many have presumed to be a male, has the distinct possibility of being a woman, is rather startling and unsettling, when the majority of our society assume that a gray bearded patriarch is responsible for the wisdom set down in the Pentateuch. I believe that this person was a woman in David's court, who was on familiar terms with his wives and concubines. We hear about Abigail, Michal, and Bathsheba, the wives of David. We don't hear much about Solomon's wives. David seemed on fairly good terms with most women. His early life as a fugitive from Saul, probably broadened his perspective in regards to the oppressed. This woman author may have served in his court in a semi-official capacity as scribe, near the end of David's reign, and Solomon may have allowed her to stay on, as writer-historian, particularly if she had been a beloved and honored teacher.

We would like to have a name to put on this nameless wise woman who is our candidate for Jahwist editor, and it seems that her identity must be hidden somewhere in the Bible, very obvious to those who knew her, but hidden to us, the uninitiated, under the dust of the centuries. The name Elihoreph for the scribe of I Kings 4:3 means God of youth.3 Could we stretch that to mean teacher of youth about God, or giver of God to youth? Could we push the meaning of son of Shisha as an interpreter of Egyptian script, whether male or female, to a female member of the guild? If women's names are not customarily mentioned in genealogical lists, and the name Elihoreph or a similar name, Eliehoenai, does not appear very frequently in the Bible, it may be the name of a woman. Could it be the name of the wise woman teacher, on King Solomon's payroll as a setter down of tradition?

In Ezra 8:5 Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah is mentioned as a clan returning from exile. The word son in genealogical records does not always mean son, but may mean descendant. Daughters were not usually put on genealogical charts, so when feminine names are mentioned, transcribers would include them as sons. Even a well known family like Saul's, has his daughters Meribbaal and Michal as sons (I Chronicles 8:33-40; 9:35-44), yet correctly as daughters in I Samuel 14:49-51. Thus in Ezra 8, we may have a rough approximation of Elihoreph, daughter of Zeruiah, making her a sister to Joab, or a daughter-in-law of Zeruiah, married to Joab or his brother.

Another possible link to the identity of the Wise Woman becomes evident if we look at the school room situation. I Chronicles 27:32 reports that Jehiel son of Hachmoni assists David's relative Jonathan in teaching


 

the princes. When we see that Hachmoni means wise, and ask ourselves of what wise person this man might be the son, we could conclude that Jehiel is guild-like following in his mother's footsteps as teacher. As the Wise Woman may have taught the young princes her knowledge of proverbs and ancestor stories, Jehiel is also the possessor of this body of knowledge, as son of his mother, and qualified to be tutor.

It may be possible to trace the identity of the Wise Woman of Tekoa by tracking out the name Jehiel, a definite personage in the reign of David. Jehiel seems to be a young man given certain positions of prominence, as befitted one with a close blood relationship to the king. Jehiel is described as one of a select group of singers at festival time (I Chronicles 15:18). He was considered to be a Levite who went before the ark (I Chronicles 16:5). In certain circumstance Levites could be appointed from other tribes as well as being born Levites.4 Jehiel is spoken of as a son of Ladan and Gershom, which are guild type names, rather than family names, and these guild names have to do with his Levitical religious duties (I Chronicles 23:8). Those in charge of the treasury are described as Jehielites in I Chronicles 26:22. They are probably Jehiel's descendants taking over this responsible treasury job of the Ladan-Gershom guild. Next we hear of Jehiel as the son of Hachmoni, being put in charge of the royal children (I Chronicles 27:32) and in I Chronicles 29:8 Jehiel is again mentioned as in charge of the treasury.

To perhaps tie in Jehiel with Joab, it is necessary to go to the post-exile book of Ezra which contains genealogical information. Among the families returning to Jerusalem with Ezra is a man called Obadiah whose lineage traces back to Jehiel the son of Joab (Ezra 8:9). Thus Jehiel of David's Jerusalem is perhaps both the son of Joab and the son of Hachmoni or the Wise Woman. From this we have a possible indication that the Wise Woman of Tekoa is the wife of Joab, the army commander of King David. This would explain why Joab figures so prominently in the stories related about David; it is his wife who is writing them down. It also might explain why this woman continued to write after the murder of her husband by Solomon. She did not want her sons to suffer the same fate as their father. Another son of Joab is mentioned in I Kings 4:6, where it is stated that Eliab son of Joab is commander of Solomon's army (though Eliab may be a different version of the name Jehiel). Keep in mind that what I am presenting here is only a possible explanation, not an absolute proof.

I have suggested elsewhere that the Wise Woman of Tekoa may have dictated, but seeing that her style is so consistent, I would like to venture that she wrote down all her literary endeavors by her own hand. Future


 

writers incorporated her gems pretty much unchanged into their editorial assemblies. Her theology, which enabled her to live philosophically under the bloody times of David and Solomon, is reflected in her writings, and helps to serve as evidence that these writings are self-produced. Where did she get the basic material for her stories? She may have heard them orally in a prophetic or craft community. There was also written material preserved, because she tells us in the Bible about the problems her group had translating some of this Moses' material. This difficult material may have been preserved through copies, either by the hands of priests or by the prophetic community. Some of these transcriptions may have been ancient songs to pagan gods, reworded to praise the God of David, and set down as Psalms rendered in David's name.

The Jahwist editor has a story to tell us that lets us know there were problems with translation. Moses, coming out of Egypt in the Exodus about 1300 BC, knew Egyptian writing forms and had a predominantly Egyptian vocabulary. Later writers at David's and Solomon's courts were more cosmopolitan, and set things down in a Canaanite-Hebrew script derived from the Phoenicians.5 Three hundred years after the Exodus, there were similarities, but there were also differences. The Jahwist editor in telling us the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), lets us know that the editorial group is having a bit of a problem with translation. As usual, she comes up with a good story that keeps God as the prominent stage director. She explains deftly how Egyptian words and symbols, got to be different from Assyrian words and writing, and the theological reason behind the whole proceeding.

There definitely was written tradition, not only because there was difficulty in translating (as the Jahwist found it necessary to relate the Babel story), but also because three hundred years separated Moses from Solomon. Moses obviously could write, and as he could write, he was probably glad to teach others this skill. As he and others could write, they were proud of this accomplishment and used it. They had the necessary materials, sheepskin for paper, and carbonated goo for ink, and writing had been in vogue since 2000 BC in Egypt. It was a status skill that people were proud to pass on, and proud to receive. There were also the priestly and prophetic communities as types of schools where this skill could be practiced. Side by side with this skill of writing, story tellers from these communities added details that they had heard and remembered. Many different stories of human beginnings on the earth were circulated, and Hebrew priests and prophets tried to sort out the ones that were appropriate for their monotheistic communities.


 

4.3 Visiting Royalty

It would be nice if we could search out a name for the Elohist editor, or better identify her (?) personality. We believe that there is some connection with Ahijah, the scribe, and with the northern religious community at Shiloh. What educated woman might have had ties with this prophetic community?

When Jeroboam's wife went calling on Ahijah as she was concerned about her sick son, she brought gifts with her (I Kings 14:1-20). Even though she was disguised, the blind Ahijah recognized her, and gave her a very disturbing prophecy. How did she feel when she was told her son would die and her husband lose his throne? Did she take her gifts back home with her?

This was a very religious woman, and she seemingly accepted God's word. Her husband Jeroboam had made an altar in his northern capital, so that his subjects would not feel that they had to worship in Jerusalem. This new altar had led to idolatrous behavior on the part of the people. It seemed that Jeroboam's political motivations were drawing his people away from the worship of the one true God. The queen doubtless understood all this, and could see disaster ahead. Believing Ahijah's prophesy, she may have ensured her future by continuing to bring gifts to the prophetic community, so that when the calamity occurred, she would have a place that would receive her. Prophetic communities did take in and help those scorned by society.

What did queens and princesses do, when the world discarded them? In Hebrew society they were not usually slaughtered like their important male counterparts. Perhaps the younger ones could contract a marriage, and thus be supported by a husband. The older ones were deprived of the male relatives who had formerly supported them and were usually unaccustomed to doing dusting and gardening. Perhaps if they were educated women, as might be possible with some queens and princesses, they could do scribal work in a prophetic community.

The Elohist author is interested in the tribes descended from Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. It is interesting that Jeroboam is an Ephraimite, the son of Nebat (I Kings 11:26). If we go back to the game we are playing, and search in this situation for what a particular woman in biblical history might have done in a difficult situation, we could imagine that this discarded queen may have continued a friendly relationship with the Shiloh community. If she did take refuge and do scribal work there, her reporting would necessarily reflect her northern religious view of the God of the covenant mountain, her interest in the tribe of Ephraim, and stories about Joseph in Egypt.


 

4.4 The Deuteronomist Editor

Looking at the Pentateuch, we find that the Adam and Eve story is largely of Jahwist construction, yet the creation story that precedes it, comes from a different hand. The Hebrew plural name for God is used in Genesis 1:26, as if the Creator of the universe is conceived differently from the God who created Adam and Eve. Another editor is on the scene, combining the material of both Jahwist and Elohist, and covering it with another layer of theology.

In investigating who wrote Genesis, we have traveled timewise through the reigns of David, Solomon, Rehoboam, and Jeroboam. We have concluded that there was original Moses material, both oral and written, as Moses and his associates could write, and as community groups told stories for information and recreation. We also tentatively concluded that there was Genesis material set down by a lady called the Jahwist, and other material termed Elohist, some of which I have speculated may be attributable to dethroned royalty. This discarded queen may have coordinated material which originated in other shrines of northern Palestine. However, besides these feminine speculations, there still are other writers represented in the first five books of the Bible. In order to more fully answer the question of who wrote the Pentateuch, we will have to continue our journey in time through the reigns of the various kings of Israel and Judah, and onward through the years of exile of the Jewish tribes in the country of Babylon.

After the end of Solomon's reign, when the ten northern tribes split off from the two tribes near Jerusalem, the kingdoms of the north and south continued on together, side by side, sometimes at war with each other, sometimes in alliance against a common enemy. In the north the Elohist material was studied and repeated, together with rules and regulations describing religious duties of the priests and people.

The political situation of the Near East at that time was such that the enlarging Assyrian empire decided to assimilate the smaller feuding states in the Palestinian area. This was accomplished with less strain for the Assyrians by over-running one kingdom at a time. In 722/721 BC when the Assyrians under Shalmaneser and Sargon destroyed the northern kingdom, priestly families from the north, fled to their fellow Hebrews in the south for sanctuary, bringing their Elohist and legal religious material with them, so that they could continue to practice their religion. They also brought with them their anguish at being forced from their homeland, and their belief that a just God was punishing them for their sins. They urged their Judean relatives to fear God and mend their ways, so that a like calamity


 

should not happen to Jerusalem and the southern kingdom.

This urge to reform is spoken of in II Chronicles 34:3. King Josiah came to the throne in Jerusalem when he was only eight years old. He was but a lad of sixteen, when he decided to purge his kingdom of her idol worship. Josiah's religious reforms took place ten years before the discovery of the "Book of The Law" pertaining to the rites to be performed in the Jerusalem temple. This religious material of the southern kingdom had probably been hidden by a devout priest, under the demoralizing reign of some Jerusalem king who didn't worship God according to the way of David. The finding of this "Book of The Law" took place in Jerusalem about 622 BC, almost one hundred years after the fall of the northern kingdom of Samaria, and then King Josiah was able not only to continue the structural repair of the temple as he had been doing, but he was able also to reinstate the old rituals. II Chronicles 34:15 describes how this book is found in the reign of Josiah by Hilkiah the Priest. Huldah, the wife of Shallum, is consulted by the important leaders of the kingdom about this precious find. In order to understand why a group of men would make inquiries of a woman, about such an important matter as the finding of the word of God to his people, we must pause and think about librarians.

The way humanity works, is that when you go into a library, you usually find a woman in charge. This isn't always the way, but being a librarian seems to be an accepted womanly position, as there are housewifely tasks connected with straightening up the bookkeeping place. It is highly likely that women have been in library positions, since the invention of books, in situations where there were both males and females in the community. (For instance, one certainly would not expect to find a woman in the library belonging to a group of contemplative monks.)

As there were both men and women in the early Hebrew community, it was necessary to have a woman around the place where books or scrolls were kept, in order for her to dust them and keep their containers clean. If a man had hauled a scroll out to study it or copy it, and had gotten called away inadvertently, it was necessary to have a woman there to roll up the scroll and put it away safely, so that mice or insects wouldn't nibble it, or dampness damage it. If a woman had to put scrolls away, it would be handy if she could read, so that she could put the scrolls in their proper containers. If she could read enough to sort out the scrolls from their title sentences, she could easily take off from there, and become capable of reading the whole scroll.

Back in BC when there were organized temples and shrines, religious materials such as priests' vestments, offering utensils, and scrolls to be


 

read from, were kept in a special spot referred to as a wardrobe. We have the same attachments to our altars today, where a priest puts on his official robes. We might call it a vestry or a sacristy. In Hebrew times the vestryman was a Levite. Certain families of Levites handed down this vestry duty in a guildlike manner from father to son. Other associated duties had to do with keeping the store rooms of grain and other votive offerings. The overseer of the temple treasury was also from the same Levitical clan, and had to be an exceptionally trustworthy man, as he had a very responsible job.

In their patriarchal society, only a man would be assigned to these important jobs, but his wife and family were expected to assist, at least with the dusting. Even the celibate male priests of our day are expected to get a woman to dust the altar, although the altar when it is being used for services, has certain legal restrictions against women. As jobs were handed down from father to son, family names keep reappearing in the biblical records, as names of those who are room guardians or gate keepers. The same is true for scribal families and priestly families. Obed-Edom seems to be the original gate keeper name (I Chronicles 26:1-8). As the generations slip by, and the owner of the name Obed dies, his grandson or great grandson will be given the same name. Another popular name for those with gate keeper duties, is Shallum (I Chronicles 9:17, 19, 31; Ezra 2:42).

II Chronicles 34 describes how King Josiah was having repairs done to the temple, so that he could have his people worship the Lord their God in a proper manner. The priest Hilkiah in overseeing the repair duties, came across the Book of The Law that had been secreted somewhere in the temple. This Book of The Law was probably not just the legal skeleton of the Moses' material, but may well have been legal material, cult material, land assignments, and also the ancestor stories transcribed by the Jahwist. This incident that took place about 622 BC was a landmark event in the composition of our Bible. The Holy Spirit was truly taking care of God's people, for without these Hebrew traditions given with Jahwist insight, we would have been left with only the sterner Elohist side of God. Hilkiah the priest, upon discovering the Book of The Law, gave it to Shaphan the secretary or scribe, who in turn, took it to King Josiah and read it to him. Perhaps this king could not read. King Josiah called all his important men, his minister of state, the head priest of the Jerusalem shrine, his scribe, and the son of his scribe (just to be sure to get every important word down), and Abdon son of Micah who might be the resident prophet, and he asked them for an opinion on the important book that had been found. They decided to consult a woman.

This same incident is reported similarly in II Kings 22:10-20. In order


 

to explain why a group of important men run to a woman with their weighty problem, the author states the qualifications of this woman. Huldah is described as a prophetess, the wife of Shallum, the keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem in the new town. The associated guild names or ancestor names are Tikvah and Harhas in II Kings, and Tokhath and Hasrah in II Chronicles.

Firstly, Huldah is described as a prophetess. As the king has his own private prophet, Huldah must be a very honored woman, a legend in her time, even before her death. Most prophets are persecuted while they live, and given honor only after their prophecies come true, usually after their demise.

Secondly, Huldah is the wife of Shallum, who is in charge of the wardrobe, which contains the vestments, utensils, and scrolls of the priestly community. In present day terms, she might be described as the wife of the librarian. She has access to certain books. Before we question which books, we should go on to the third fact, that Huldah lives in the new town. When so many refugees came from the north at the time of Shalmaneser's destruction of Samaria, they couldn't be accommodated inside the walls of Jerusalem. As late comers, they had to set up housekeeping outside the walls. This explanation that Huldah came from the new town area, meant that the group she lived among, was probably the group whose parents had come from the northern kingdom. This group got as close to Jerusalem as they could, and preached repentance and reform to their fellow Hebrews of the south. They were well informed about God's will, as they had brought with them from their destroyed northern homes, their priestly regulations and their Elohist traditions. By 622 BC the people of the southern kingdom had heard all about these "newcomers" and their books of legal regulations and ancestor traditions. These tales and laws of the "newcomers" may have been codified and put out before the public, early in Josiah's reign. They were probably what instigated Josiah's reform. Thus when a Book of The Law was discovered in the Jerusalem temple, all the important men rushed to show it to the person called Huldah who had had a hand in the codifying and editing of the legal and folk traditions from the north.

In implying that this codifier of law was a woman, Huldah the wife of Shallum, I am only making a suggestion. No prophet works in a vacuum, and this woman must have received encouragement and assistance from her husband and other members of the community. It is hard to visualize the process of organizing all the rules and regulations transcribed on decaying parchments and transported from the northern shrines, when we glance through our present day Book of Deuteronomy. It seems that this


 

book was not produced by a hand guided by a mind in a trancelike state. There is no claim for dictation by an angel. Whoever did this compilation must have worked "like a dog" gathering information and then consulting those who might be able to give enlightenment on the old customs. This person must have also prayed to God frequently for guidance and strength. I wish that more people would be interested in studying the beginnings of our Bible, so that we could understand the problems of previous times that led earlier people to propose certain ideas of God. If more research were done on biblical authors, we of today might be led to treat the Bible as a loving, guiding friend, instead of as an inflexible authority.

If Huldah were the editor of this northern biblical material, what must have been her feelings to hold and to recognize the Jahwist material, and to compare it with the material that she had assembled from the northern shrines! There is a further explanation about Shallum that may help to describe where he acquired this library of scrolls. Huldah's credentials state that she is the wife of Shallum, son of Tikvah, son of Harhas in II Kings 22 (Tokhath and Hasrah in II Chronicles 34). If we consider Harhas to be a name applied to the shrine at Beth Shemesh, and Tikvah to be the city of Tirzah, then we may read this phrase to mean that the library that Shallum keeps, came from the priestly or prophetic communities at Tirzah and at Beth Shemesh.

There may have been such a community at Tirzah. Names of places change over the centuries, and spellings may vary due to conquerors mispronouncing or giving their own language preference. When Ahijah, to whom I have assigned the possibility of initiating some of the Elohist tradition, left the kingdom of Rehoboam in the south, he returned to the northern shrine of Shiloh. Shiloh was near Tirzah which was the capital of the northern kingdom before the construction of the king's palace in the city of Samaria. The priests or prophets or ex-rulers at Ahijah's Shiloh, who compiled the Elohist material, may have stayed in the same area, and taken on the name of the near-by city of Tirzah. I Chronicles 2:55 mentions the Tirathites as being some of the Sopherim or wise people. As Ahijah's retreat at Shiloh was only a short walk to Tirzah (I Kings 14:17), this place may be the Tikvah or Tokhath where the scrolls were preserved.

Harhas may be a pagan name given to what had been a Hebrew shrine at Beth Shemesh.6 If the Hebrew shrine were taken over by the pagans, it would be appropriate to drop the Hebrew name. Beth Shemesh was the scene of a battle between Israel and Judah (II Kings 14:11). It had belonged first to one country, then to the other. When Shalmaneser overran the northern kingdom, the priests and scribes may have retreated to their southern


 

border, and stayed at Beth Shemesh until further harassment prodded them on to Jerusalem. Harhas is a name meaning temple of the sun, and the place may have been put to use as a pagan religious site by peoples whom the conquering Assyrians had relocated. Writings procured from the Beth Shemesh prophetic community might well be described as coming from Harhas. The writer of II Kings 22:14 may be telling us that Huldah is the authority on the written materials that have come from the northern shrine of Tirzah via the priestly community at Beth Shemesh.

In order to inspire such respect from the men of her generation, Huldah must have been a fabulous scholar, and also a holy woman of unimpeachable character. Leonard Swidler, a man of our generation, is so impressed with this portrayal of character that he terms Huldah the foundress of biblical studies.7 As we know that there was a talented compiler of biblical material about this time in Hebrew history, who has been given the name of the Deuteronomist by biblical scholars for the construction of the Book of Deuteronomy, I should like to equate Huldah with this person.

The Deuteronomist editor worked about 650 BC, shortly before the Jerusalemites were taken off to their Babylonian exile. Jeremiah the Prophet, who wrote the biblical Book of Jeremiah, shows a certain amount of Deuteronomist influence. We learn that Jeremiah had an uncle named Shallum (Jeremiah 32:7) and a father called Hilkiah of a priestly family (Jeremiah 1:1). Knowing this information and plugging it back into the incident at the court of King Josiah in II Kings 22, we see that these people who surrounded the king, had certain relationships, that Hilkiah as brother or brother-in-law of Shallum, knew Huldah very well, and that the reforming prophet Jeremiah, as Huldah's nephew, probably had a very solid theological background. Under these influences, Josiah was naturally led to be an ardent reformer, and to respect the wisdom and the prophecy of the woman Huldah.

4.5 Carried Away to Babylon

The Deuteronomist, who I am equating with Huldah, was responsible for the Book of Deuteronomy. The Deuteronomist is also given credit by biblical scholars for the editing of the books of Joshua and Judges. In II Kings 22 Huldah is given the Jahwist material to add to her collection. She may have had the opportunity to work this material into the Pentateuch. She may have been the editor who combined the Jahwist material with the Elohist material, or she may have started on the project and been interrupted by events leading up to the Babylonian exile of the Jerusalemites. Huldah worked out of a loving community. Her husband supported her. Her relatives admired her. Her sons and daughters couldn't help but be impressed with her capabilities. Her nephew Jeremiah obviously learned from her and assisted her to the


 

utmost of his ability. The combining of the Deuteronomist version of the Pentateuch with the new found Book of The Law of Judea may well have been a community project. It is doubtful that Huldah and her friends completed this project. It would have been a very time consuming job, and political events intervened so that those who might have assisted Huldah, were in fear for their lives. Josiah was killed in battle with Egypt, and his sons who ruled after him, were either in deep difficulty with foreign powers, or not interested in the word of God to such an extent that they persecuted Huldah's nephew Jeremiah.

Josiah, the friend of Huldah and Jeremiah, died about 608 BC, and the people agreed that his twenty three year old son Joahez should be king. Joahez was displaced by his half brother Eliakim by a foreign potentate who renamed him Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim ruled eleven years before he got into trouble, and then was replaced by his eighteen year old son Jehoiachin about the year 597. This year was the time of the first deportation to Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar took young Jehoiachin and his mother and wives, plus many of the important people of Jerusalem, and hustled them off to Babylon. This was really a very fortunate circumstance for Jehoiachin, because although at first he was kept in captivity, he finally became an honored guest at the king's table, and the elite of Jerusalem who were carried away with him were able to form a strong faith community. Less fortunate was the next king who was appointed puppet ruler in Jerusalem. He was a younger son of Huldah's friend King Josiah, called Zedekiah, who ruled for about eleven years, only to see all his sons put to death. Jeremiah prophesied very actively in this reign, but Zedekiah refused to listen to him. In 587 BC the temple was destroyed and a second deportation to Babylon took place. Many of the remaining Jews fled to Egypt and other surrounding territories.

In the land of Palestine, there remained the poor and the landless, a ruined temple, and a city with broken down walls. All the elite had been deported or destroyed. What must it have been like to be dragged off under guard from their houses and farm lands? It is said that the Holy Spirit allowed the temple to be leveled in the good weather, so that the people would not perish because of cold, on their long despairing trek. Imagine the hard journey made by those accustomed to soft living. Did they have wagons or tents? Where did they live when they got there? What place did they get to? What did they take with them? One of the items they took in either the first or second deportation was the Book of The Law that had been discovered in the temple during the reign of the reformer Josiah. The material that was passed on by Shallum and his wife Huldah, was also


 

transported to Babylon, probably by members of the same gate-keeper and scribal guild families. Shallum had a son called Maaseiah who was an important official in the temple (Jeremiah 35:4) who may have had charge of these valuable scrolls. We also hear about a scribe named Shemaiah, whose job it may have been to copy these manuscripts.

The name Shemaiah used in the Bible often seems to connote a mysterious writer. One gets the impression that a person might sign his name as Shemaiah if he didn't want to admit his real name. This "Shemaiah" was evidently a person in the first deportation to Babylon in 597 BC, and he wanted to believe that his group would soon be allowed to return to their beloved Jerusalem. He took it upon himself to protest against a letter that Jeremiah sent to the Babylonian exiles telling them that they would be away from their homeland for seventy years (Jeremiah 29:4-23). Shemaiah suggested that they place an iron collar around Jeremiah's neck (Jeremiah 29:26). Jeremiah repays Shemaiah's letter about the iron collar by prophesying that Shemaiah won't have any male descendents to return to Israel after the seventy years of captivity (Jeremiah 29:32). What does a scribe do when he has no sons to whom he can pass on his guild type trade?

The scribe Shemaiah may have had to lean on the women in his family if he was so unfortunate with his sons. Back in his former home in Jerusalem, this scribe had worked in the temple with all the other scribes. In Babylon there was no such status filled place to work. You worked in your tent or in your mud hut. You worked with your wife and family right there beside you, in close quarters. If the Babylonian ruler knew that you had the skill of writing, he might summon you to his palace to record his documents. This might take you away from the job of copying the "Book of The Law," for a time. You might enlist the aid of your family at home, so that the work of copying the word of God might go on. Women weren't expected to write, so they wouldn't be called to the king's presence to do scribal duties. A scribe could teach his wife or daughters the writing trade at home, and they could do the copy work without arousing suspicion. Being a part time scribe for the Babylonian king had certain advantages. You might be able to explain to him the plight of your people, and the goodness of your God. If the king were a reasonable man, he might be influenced by your evangelizing. Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, mentions two cases where Jews were able to become friends with future Babylonian kings, who later assisted them with supporting documents in their temple rebuilding.8

Later day legends of the Jews speak of the name Shemaiah ben Nethanel as somehow tied in with the Pentateuch of Moses, as if a scribe


 

by this name had given fullness and structure to the original Moses material, somewhere along the line, in the compilation of the Pentateuch.9 Shemaiah of the Babylonian exile may have headed up a scribal community that edited the Pentateuch in its final form. Thus his group may have gone under the name of Shemaiah ben Nethanel. Nethanel means "gift of God" and those who gave the Pentateuch would be scribes who gave the gift of God to the people. When Jeremiah wrote his prophecy against this Shemaiah of the exile community, he called him derogatorily "Shemaiah ben Nehelam," which means a person who is a dreamer or deluded. If an anonymous writer sent a letter to Jeremiah, using the name of a legendary talented scribe, Jeremiah could have used humor in replying with a name similar to the famous historical name, yet decidedly different. The situation would be similar to someone signing their letter The Gifted Anonymous Writer and having someone else respond writing to The Ungifted Anonymous Writer.

Two other places in biblical history where we might place a Shemaiah ben Nethanel are both spots where a scribe that brought honor to Moses, may have been active. In Numbers 1:8 Nethanel, a prince of the tribe of Issachar, is listed as one of the scribes who helps with the first census of Israel. (If we are to believe that all these census assistants could write, we can see that there was no problem with copying scrolls or writing histories.) A Nethanel guild member may have been an early biographer of Moses.

The second spot is more specific. The Chronicler has Shemaiah ben Nethanel registering tribal descendants in the days of David (I Chronicles 24:6). This may be an artistic touch that the Chronicler thought appropriate to illustrate scribal duties, or he may have heard that a Moses editor was active then (the Jahwist) and given that editor a complimentary name, or there may have been a real person, Shemaiah, in the time of David.

The Chronicler and the author of I Kings have a strange prophet in their histories concerning the time of Rehoboam (I Kings 12:21-24 and II Chronicles 11:1-4). Everyone obeys this person, and if he functioned in the days of David and again under Rehoboam forty years later, he must be either a revered elder or a fictitious explanation as to why two opposing armies decide not to fight. The structure of the Hebrew language is such that often it is difficult to tell whether it is a woman or man that is being talked about. If the scribal name of Shemaiah in this instance is being deferentially bestowed upon a woman elder of the community, this person heading off the suicidal battle between the two opposing clans may be the editor, by then quite elderly, that we believe to be the wife of Joab. Legends of the Jews, in connecting the name Shemaiah ben Nethanel to Moses,


 

may be giving us a clue to the re-editing of the Pentateuch that took place both in the time of David and Solomon, and to the final re-editing which took place during the Babylonian captivity, by a community of scribes under the guidance of someone who disagreed with Jeremiah's political views.

Shemaiah was not the only named writer of the Babylonian period. Jewish literature flourished in the oppressed time of the captivity. Can this be because women (who are as equally endowed as men with creative ability) were given the household opportunity of using their talents? Women were superfluous to the scribal set-up in the male dominated temple, but in Babylon, gifted women had the chance to serve God with their abilities. Shemaiah may have had a talented wife, daughter, or female relative who applied her genius to the organizing of God's word. The name Shemaiah may have been the protective anonymous covering for the talented wife or daughter of a scribe.

There is another reason for suspecting the voice of a woman in the Babylonian captivity writings. Some of this material has a womanly ring. Psalm 137 laments, "Beside the streams of Babylon we sat and wept at the memory of Zion." The first half of this Psalm very likely had its beginnings in a group of refugee women doing their laundry by the riverside. It is conceivable that men would weep, but it is much more likely that these captives were the female section of the community. To them we owe the first gentle part of the song, and after the song gained popularity, some male singer, breathing out vengeance and too macho to cry, added the threat of smashing babies on rocks ( Psalm 137:9).

All the known Hebrew scriptures were revised during the stay in Babylon, and we don't know who did it. John Bright in A History of Israel describes the exilic situation and the tremendous amount of scribal work done. Deuteronomy and Joshua to II Kings, the material of the Deuteronomist, was reedited and given additional commentary. The prophetic works were assembled and enlarged to include vindicated prophecies. The Priestly code that contained the practice of the Jerusalem temple, was set down, so that in event of a return, descendants would have full information on ritual. The Priestly narrative of the Pentateuch which started at the Creation story and continued on to describe the giving of the ordinances at Sinai, was composed at this time.10 History does not give us any name to credit for this vast accomplishment. Can the identity of the main compiler of this work be hidden, because she was a woman?

We have the names and know the style of prophecy of many exilic writers. Our Bibles contain the books of the prophets Habakkuk, Nahum, Zephaniah, Haggai, Obadiah, Zechariah, and Ezekiel. None of these books


 

contain quite the same style as is manifested by the final editor of the Pentateuch whom we term the Priestly author. There may be similarities of style and content between the Priestly author's material and the second section of Isaiah, and also similarity of content with the Priestly author and Ezekiel. Is it possible to date these writings more precisely? Haggai and Zechariah both have prophecies to encourage the grandson of King Jehoiachin, Zerubbabel, who might be termed the pretender to the throne (Haggai 2:2 and Zechariah 4:6). The second part of Isaiah goes beyond the time of Zerubbabel and mentions Cyrus the Persian as God's instrument to destroy Assyrian domination (Isaiah 44:28). Thus a good date for pin-pointing the writing of this second section of Isaiah, is between 550 and 540 BC, mid-exilic, when Cyrus was the ground of the hope for a Jewish return. In dating the prophet Ezekiel, who is either a priest or son of a priest, we find that he left Jerusalem with the first group of exiles in 597 BC and prophesied rather regularly for about thirty years. Not only did the conditions of the exile promote the possibility of feminine scribes, but our present day model of synagogue was initiated at this time. Looking at the captivity in hindsight, it can be seen as a period of dramatic rejuvenation in a stagnant religion. Forced contact with the Babylonians created renewed interest in the creation traditions.11 Hebrew women confronting the more feminine religion of Assyria, may have searched for and found womanly qualities in the masculine warrior God who led their ancestors out of the land of Egypt. In such an atmosphere a woman may have been encouraged by an open-minded community, to use her talents. Perhaps a group of women undertook a joint literary venture under the guidance of a male overseer.

Later history gives us a documented example of such a joint venture, in the translation of the Bible into Latin, supposedly by Jerome. St. Marcella and "the girls,"—Fabiola, Paula, Blaesilla, and Paulina, were the women who worked on this project. Jerome generously dedicated his commentaries on Isaiah and Ezekiel to the lady St. Eustochium, "because she learned Hebrew and spoke it with no accent."12 We assume she used this faultless Hebrew to give us her Latin translation of The Suffering Servant of Isaiah (with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course). In thinking about the translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, we must keep in mind that Greek and Hebrew are both languages that often hide the female gender in the all-encompassing male word. Some of these able women translators as they came out of a patriarchal society, may have inadvertently hidden possible female interpretations from later readers. Yet we must give credit where credit is due, and affirm that these women made an excellent translation for their time and culture. They did the work on the Vulgate, but


 

according to their societal customs, a man's name, the name Jerome, was put on their accomplishment.

4.6 A Little Child Shall Lead Them

In picturing a group of scribal women working industriously in Babylon, it is important to realize that there is no way to confirm this situation. Women's names are rarely mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures, and if they did write something, it would have to be affirmed by a male, as women were not legal witnesses. One woman is mentioned as living about mid-exile time, but we are given no reason for her name being set down in I Chronicles 3:19. The heir to the Jewish throne, Zerubbabel, had one daughter named Shelomith.

At another spot in Chronicles we come across the name Shelomith as a person of the Gershom-Ladan guild, who is in charge of everything that was dedicated for use within the temple (I Chronicles 26:28). This Shelomith is supposedly connected with the time of David, but often the Chronicler sets his actors in the days of David in order to illustrate to his post-exile audience how things should be done. Shelomith is a gate-keeper guild name, related to Shallum. Members of this guild "were responsible for the Covenant Box, the table, the lamp stand, the altars, the utensils the priests use in the Holy Place, and the curtain at the entrance to the Most Holy Place. They were responsible for all the service connected with these items" (Numbers 3:31). As we look from these early duties described in Numbers 3, to the situation in Babylon where friends met at the home of Ezekiel and formed a synagogue community, and where women in the homes had more opportunity to participate in service to the Lord than had been possible for them in the temple, we wonder if a young woman might fulfill the duties of scribe, book keeper, and guardian of religious articles in the home synagogue. Such a capable woman might be honored with the guild-type name of Shelomith.

My proposal is that this person Shelomith, the daughter of Zerubbabel, is the Priestly author whom Bible scholars credit with the Creation Story of the first chapter of Genesis, and with the total re-editing of the Pentateuch. My theory is that not only was the author of Genesis 1, a woman, but that this Shelomith was a very young woman who sat at the feet of the elderly Ezekiel and absorbed his wisdom, and may herself have had privileged enlightenment from God. She may have been barely past her teen age years when she wrote Genesis and coordinated the final edition of the Pentateuch. As this editor has so often been designated by (P), standing for Priestly Author, or one from the priestly community at Babylon, I should like to


 

continue to designate her with a (P), yet let the (P) stand for the Peaceful One, as her writings inspire us towards an active pursuit of peace. Not only are her writings peace directed, but the name she is called in the Bible (I Chronicles 3:19), Shelomith, a variation on Shallum or Solomon or Salome, has the meaning of Peace.

I should like to offer a word here about the origin of my women- writers-of-the-Bible theory. We accept that Augustine's conversion was due in part to a small voice he heard while he was in a semi-dream like state, saying, "Take and read."13 He read, and he found inspiration. My theory comes from the same sort of direction. Modern psychologists tell us that our subconscious transmits well at a point between our sleeping and our waking, where we have one foot in our conscious and the other in our subconscious. If one prays for guidance from the Holy Spirit, an answer may come in this sleeping-waking moment when the mind is less cluttered with other things, and at its most receptive and perceptive. The Holy Spirit sends her inspiration for a particular time and place. I believe that if you or I sincerely ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, she will give us the inspiration that is good and proper for us at our particular station in life. If those around us disagree with our inspiration, it becomes necessary for us all to listen humbly to one another's ideas and seek for God speaking in each other. Through consensus the loving community can come closer to the heart of God.

In my search for inspiration on women who may have contributed to the biblical collection, I sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As I am a woman and have a deep inner wish to believe certain things about the strengths and capabilities of women, my inner thoughts tend to help confirm me in my beliefs. As my opinions are tilted in a certain direction, I have a tendency to draw conclusions that support my direction. The whole community would gain more wisdom on the subject and would aid in the overcoming of personal biases such as mine, if persons with varying opinions consulted the Spirit and discussed their findings with each other. I am hopeful that more people will meditate on the place of women in biblical history, let their ideas be known, and open their minds to each other's proposals.

In my puzzling over the connection between Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Genesis 1, during a moment of half-sleeping, half-waking, the words, "A little child shall lead them," (Isaiah 11:6) came to my mind. Then I thought of Shelomith, the daughter of the pretending king of Judah, Zerubbabel. In the home synagogue, wouldn't she be everyone's favorite and the recipient of special privileges? Wouldn't it be logical for her to become the friend


 

and companion of the lonely widower, Ezekiel? Did not Ezekiel claim to have protected a baby girl (Ezekiel 16)? What would be the position of a female child, in a royal family where the king's sons were taken to be eunuchs at the Babylonian court? If descendents of David could not produce male heirs, would the Jewish patriarchy track lineage through the female line? On the other hand, would captive female royalty be expected to live in the harem of their conquerors?

There is another story placed during the Babylonian captivity. This tale of Esther and Mordecai describes a Jewess who became a member of the harem of the conquering royalty. The name Esther means secret or hidden. The name Mordecai means contrition or bitter bruising with sorrow.14 The young maiden Esther found favor with the king. The elderly male relative Mordecai cares for her, as her parents are out of the picture. Due to this relationship, God's people are served and saved. This story fits in with the Ezekiel-Shelomith theme of an elder in charge of a young maiden, or it may be relating a true history of other individuals.

Ezekiel, the son of the priest Buzi, is a pessimist. He is the prophet who saw the vision of The Wheel, representing the glory of God, by the banks of the river Chebar, or Kabaru, near the Babylonian city of Nippur. Ezekiel seems to have certain problems and sufferings. Not only is he exiled in the first deportation of 597 BC, but he loses the wife he loves dearly, nine years later, and is told not to mourn her (Ezekiel 24:17). At one point he is paralyzed, even to the point where he is unable to speak (Ezekiel 3:25). Perhaps in this state, he undergoes the lying on one side and then the other for the sum total of four hundred and thirty days described in Ezekiel 4:4-6. Another affliction he mentions is trembling (Ezekiel 12:17). He does have the respect of the community who come to him in his house and listen to his advice (Ezekiel 8:1, 14:1, and 20:1). He laments for Judah's kings who will never be strong again (Ezekiel 19:14), and he is firm on keeping the Sabbath holy (Ezekiel 20:20), which is a theme of Genesis 1. Other similarities between Genesis and Ezekiel are found in the trees of Eden (Genesis 2:9 and Ezekiel 31:18) and the karibu animals as guardians of the holy (Genesis 3:24 and Ezekiel 1:5). Ezekiel compares Judah and Samaria to two prostitutes, Cholah and Cholibah (Ezekiel 23), which also may be a way for him to tell a young virgin in his care, the facts of life. The name Ezekiel (other forms are Jehezkel and Hezekiah) means God strengthens.

4.7 The Peaceful Author and The Book of Isaiah

Besides the similarities in Genesis 1 and Ezekiel, we can also note a common spirit visible in Genesis 1 and the second section of Isaiah. Many biblical scholars have wondered about The Suffering Servant Songs in the Book of  Isaiah.


 

Of particular interest is the Fourth Song that seems to describe a return from death (Isaiah 53:8-10).15 For Jews in the sixth century BC who believed that an individual lived only in his descendants, this must have been a new theological conception. Scholars Mowinckel and Haller suggest that the Servant is a kind of Anti-Cyrus figure. At first, Cyrus, the Persian who overthrew the Babylonians, is predicted with joy (Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1), but he still remains a worshiper of false gods, and is therefore a disappointment. Thus after the initial enthusiasm for Cyrus, Isaiah turns to a savior figure who accomplishes God's dream for Israel through another means, that of teaching, prophecy, and finally, suffering and death.16

The Book of Isaiah is divided generally into three major parts. It began by being the work of a prophet who was a contemporary of King Uzziah who reigned from 784 to 742 BC, a bit before the fall of the northern kingdom of Samaria when the land was generally prosperous. Chapters 1-39 of Isaiah are primarily the work of this early prophet. The exceptions to this authorship are parts that describe the exiled community, about which early Isaiah had no knowledge. The writer of Isaiah 10:5 knows that Assyria has already attacked. Isaiah 10:20 predicts the return of a few exiles. Isaiah 11:2-9 knows about the exilic community, and predicts a new Davidic king and a peaceful Judean kingdom. It contains the line, "A little child shall lead them," and then speaks more of the return of the exiles. These verses may have been set down as either something that occurred during exilic times, that was a special case, or they may relate to a special custom of the exilic community which recognized leadership abilities in a childlike individual (as Jesus did in Matthew 18:2). These inserted parts in the first section of Isaiah may have been put in by one of the people who wrote the remainder of the Book of Isaiah. The second part of the Book of Isaiah, chapters 40 to 55, is authored by an unknown person living under the exile, and contains the Suffering Servant Songs. Again, some portions of this section may be by other individuals. The writer of the third section of Isaiah was a post-exilic person who knew about the return from Babylon and the rebuilt temple.

The parts of Isaiah designated as Suffering Servant Songs are 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, and 52:13 to 53:12. I wish to attribute them to the name Shelomith, the Peaceful One, who I believe wrote the final edition of the Pentateuch, and its introduction in Genesis 1. If we consider that she was a woman, we can believe that she would not be listened to, if she shouted and raised her voice, or made loud speeches in the streets (as stated in Isaiah 42:2). However, she knew in her heart that distant lands eagerly awaited her teaching (Isaiah 42:4), the compilation of the word of God that


 

 

would be her gift to humanity. She believed that her words were as sharp as a sword and that she was like an arrow ready for use (Isaiah 49:2), that God had made her a light to the nations so that all the world might be saved (Isaiah 49:6). She knew full well the responsible job she had been given. We treasure our Bibles, and she was instrumental in giving us this treasure. Our Bibles teach us of God's Messiah, and through the diligence of this author, this light is given to the world. She set down her thoughts of God. "Every morning he makes me eager to hear what he is going to teach me" (Isaiah 50:4).

There are certain advanced theological similarities between Second Isaiah and Genesis 1. In Genesis the heavens are created, and in Isaiah 40:26 God creates the stars. There is the challenge to false gods in Isaiah 41, and in Genesis we are assured that the sun and the moon are not gods, but merely creations of the only God. The most striking feature about both works is their optimism. In Genesis there is a good God who creates good. In Isaiah even death can not destroy the goodness of a good man. Even though the good man is dead and entombed (Isaiah 53:9), he will see his descendants, live a long life, and God's purposes will succeed in him (Isaiah 53:10). This is affirmed in Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel, whose wife died early in their marriage, may have had some experience of life-after-life that he tried to communicate to his community. The writer of Isaiah 53:7-9 must have understood his philosophy. Perhaps she is describing the death of Ezekiel in this passage, where a man is arrested, sentenced, led off to die, and placed in a grave with evil men. She set down emphatically for her present generation and for us in the future that after a life of suffering, the good man will again have joy (Isaiah 53:11). This peaceful author had known a suffering prophet and had accepted his strange ways and afflictions. The bitter pessimism in the Book of Ezekiel is transformed into loving, living words in Second Isaiah and the Pentateuch. Through Ezekiel's sufferings and prayers and the support of a loving community, the Peaceful One is able to accomplish a momentous task.

The most likely date for the Second section of Isaiah, is between 550 and 540 BC, as it knows of the conqueror Cyrus. As Zerubbabel's daughter, the earliest possible birthdate for Shelomith is 565 BC. Ezekiel's prophecies stop about 567, and his work has no knowledge of Cyrus. Friendship between Shelomith and Ezekiel could have taken place after 565 when he may have been too afflicted to write. The Servant Song may have been written about 20 years later by the Peaceful One, to commemorate her friend Ezekiel.

There were many prophets and scribes doing duty in Babylon, and


 

the Peaceful One doubtless worked out of a community that gave her support and criticism. However, the originality of her theology and the thoroughness of her work, coupled with her optimism, lead us to believe that this compiled Pentateuch was the creation of one person who was seeking to please God, as God's guidance came through a beloved elder. The writer and her revered friend accomplished a monumental task for the good of the world.

NOTES

1 Peter Ellis, The Men and The Message of The Old Testament (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1976), p. 175.

2 E. A. Speiser, Genesis (Garden City: Doubleday Anchor, 1983), p. 3.

3 Alexander Cruden, Complete Concordance (Philadelphia: Lippincott, no date), p. 710.

4 Implied in Judges 17:5, in II Samuel 8:18, and in Isaiah 66:21.

5 T. W. Manson and H. H. Rowley, A Companion To The Bible (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1963), p. 18.

6 R. Seguineau and O. Odelain, Dictionary of Proper Names and Places in The Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981).

7 Leonard Swidler, Biblical Affirmations of Women (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1979), p. 88.

8 William Whiston, Works of Josephus Vol. II (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1865), p. 207, Zerubbabel as friend of Darius, p. 221, Esdras as friend of Xerxes.

9 Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of The Jews Vol. VI (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968), pp. 269, 270.

10 John Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972), p. 350.

11 Walter Rast, Tradition History and The Old Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972), p. 71.

12 Olga Hartley, Women and The Catholic Church (London: Burns, Oates, and Washbourne, 1935), pp. 14, 15.

13 Augustine, Confessions (London: Sheed and Ward, 1949), p. 141.

14 Alexander Cruden, loc.cit., p. 714.

15 John L. McKenzie, Second Isaiah (Garden City: Doubleday, Anchor, 1968), p. xxxix.

16 ibid., p. xlviii.


 

Chapter V: A BLACK WOMAN
SAVES THE JEWISH RACE

5.1 Laying The Ghost of Shemaiah

It is possible for the word of God in our Bible to come through women as well as men. With other Bible scholars I agree that the combination of authors which is mainly responsible for the Pentateuch can be lined up as M-J-E-D-P. However, I will give a slightly different interpretation for each of the initials. Starting from the end, I have suggested that the Priestly author, a young lady by the name of Shelomith, should be called the Peaceful One. (D) still stands for the Deuteronomist, the prophetess Huldah. (E) is the Elohist who may or may not be an Ex-queen from among the Ephraimites in northern Israel. (J) stands for the Jahwist (or Yahwist, but I prefer to use the German spelling) and (J) also stands for Joab's wife. The (M) could stand for Moses or for some involvement of Moses' wife. I would like to suggest that we change the (M) to (Z) in order to emphasize that it is just as likely that Moses' wife Zipporah wrote down the early material, as that Moses himself wrote it down. It seems that as Moses is the one who is being written about, that someone other than Moses wrote the material. Most of the early Moses' material is information about Moses after he met up with his wife. The stories that are in the early written tradition, are things that Moses' wife would know about, and are given from an observer viewpoint.

Perhaps other people could write, besides Moses and his wife. I have mentioned the name of Shemaiah ben (son of) Nethanel as a legendary biographer of Moses. It is true that there is a scribe Nethanel mentioned (Numbers 1:8) who knows how to write and who could have had a son who logged the long journey through the wilderness. However, I would like to lay the ghost of this Shemaiah. Shemaiah is a scribal name, and it seems that the early Hebrews recognized that Moses was not writing about himself, and that someone near Moses was telling the story. They may even have suspected that it was a woman. It may be that whenever there is a possibility of a woman scribe, she is given a male scribal non-de-plume, as females in Hebrew culture could not be legal witnesses. Shemaiah is a dominant name in the scribal guild line and has the meaning of "hears and obeys," so was a good name to pick for mysterious authors. When the name


 

Nethanel is added, it is complimentary; it means that what you wrote is God-given. Nethanel means "gift of God." Shemaiah ben Nethanel is a good name for a woman writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

When there is a possibility of a woman author, as the wife of Moses, and the wife of Joab, we find the Talmud tradition suggesting this mysterious scribe, Shemaiah. Another scribe is given credit for helping with the Prophecy of Ezekiel. We are told to "revere the memory of Chananiah ben Chiskiyah for had it not been for him the Book of Ezekiel would have been suppressed, because of the contradictions it offers to the words of the law."1 Chananiah reconciled the discrepancies with three hundred bottles of oil! The name Chananiah ben Chiskiyah is a possible Assyrianized version of Shemaiah son of Shishak. Shishak seems to have been an appropriate scribal guild name ever since the time of David. We may have here a pseudonym for a female editor, perhaps Shelomith, the Peaceful One. The fact that one hundred bottles of oil were used to smooth the works of Ezekiel, makes one suspect that there is something fictitious about the whole explanation. It might make us dubious about the reality of any Shemaiah. When the name Shemaiah is used we begin to suspect a non-de-plume. We already have two examples, one in the time of David, which may be the Wise Woman from Tekoa; and the other in the time of the Babylonian Captivity, which may be Shelomith, the Peaceful One. Let's investigate the possibilities of a Shemaiah type in the time of the Exodus.

5.2 The Wife of Moses

Hopefully, I have opened up the possibility of female authorship in the final exilic edition of the Pentateuch. Let's go back to the Pentateuch traditions themselves and see what they tell us about a woman's place in the community. The Talmud gives us a notion of the respect that Moses had for women. It has him saying that humans would never have sinned, if God had only given the directions about the trees in Eden, to Eve, instead of to Adam. Moses was a humble man, and would have been the first one to admit that he couldn't have led the people out of Egypt without female assistance.

Moses was a flesh and blood man, and he had a wife. We women know how heavily men lean on women, particularly their wives, for support and comfort. We may have the impression that Moses' wife was an ordinary little shepherd girl whom he picked up, by engaging her in conversation by a well. Josephus states that Moses' wife was the daughter of a king. The Bible says her father was a priest, and no ordinary priest, but a man whose name is given as Reuel, meaning a "friend of God." To be known as a friend of God, back in those days, meant that God had taken a liking to you and obviously blessed you with the goods of this world. This


 

gentleman was well-heeled. His daughter would be a good marriage prospect for an educated man coming from the court of the pharaoh. As daughter of a prosperous and holy man, Moses' wife had access to the religious and cultural stimulation of her day. She knew by heart the stories of history and genealogy that were related by visiting minstrels or by the story tellers of her own household.

Moses married her, not just because of the secular power of her father, but because she was a charming woman. He was accepted as son-in-law as he was an Egyptian courtesan (Did he tell his in-laws that he was a murderer?), and he surely made himself useful to Reuel with his writing talent, setting down accounts, or even priestly regulations. He may have taught his wife to write, or she may have learned how to do it, just from watching him.

If a group of people today are having a meeting, and a secretary is needed to take notes, it is inevitably a woman who is asked to do the writing. In the desert Moses had to judge the people from morning to evening; he didn't have too much time to write anything down. If he had any inspired words, he may have passed them on to his wife-secretary. Looking at this from a woman's viewpoint, there is no reason for us to believe that all the inspired words came from Moses. Women are just as capable of thinking great thoughts as men are, although generations of men have been slow to admit it. Let's be impartial and suggest the possibility that some of the work which was attributed to Moses, both in composing the tradition and leading the people, was the inspiration of the Holy Spirit working through the mind and hands of his wife. The historical picture shows that all the God-inspired actions of Moses took place after he teamed up with this remarkable woman. His record in Egypt pre-Zipporah, sketched Moses as a quick tempered young man who had difficulty relating to his own people.

We know several things about the wife of Moses. Biblical names give clues to character, and her name, Zipporah, has many possible meanings. In the feminine it means beauty or trumpet. The masculine word zippor can have the various interpretations of bird, sparrow, crown, desert, goat, or early in the morning.2 Through her father Zipporah could trace her lineage back to Abraham. This father is variously known as Jethro (E-source, Exodus 3:1), Hobab of the family of Reuel (J-source, Numbers 10:29), and simply as Reuel, a religious man of Midian (Exodus 2:16-18). Midian was the descendant of the woman Keturah who mothered six of Abraham's sons (Genesis 25:1-2). In order that his son Isaac not be troubled by land disputes with these sons of lesser importance, Abraham gave gifts to them and sent them in an easterly direction. Midian ended up in northwest


 

Arabia, where his descendants may have remembered Abraham's God and his covenant of circumcision. In Judges 1:16 Hobab is also called a Kenite, which is a term used for the guild of metal workers and miners. Hobab himself is never referred to as a black, but his daughter Zipporah is called a Cushite (Numbers 12:1), a name reserved for dark skinned people, as from the land of Ethiopia. Perhaps Zipporah's mother was a black woman.

Moses, having killed a man in Egypt, fled from the punishment due to him, into the land of Midian. Our heroine, one of the seven daughters of Jethro (seven means he had all the daughters he needed, and might imply he had no sons), had started to water her father's flocks, and been pushed aside by certain rough male shepherds. Moses took this opportunity to befriend the young ladies (of whom there may only have been two [Koran XXVIII:23]). We don't know if Moses discouraged the male shepherds by physical force or persuasive words, but his valiant action won him the position of official shepherd and also the hand of Zipporah in marriage.

5.3 A Priestess of The Rite of Circumcision?

In marrying Zipporah, Moses became acquainted with the shepherding area of the Sinai wilderness, observed the phenomenon of manna, heard the folk tales of the Midianites, and learned about their respect for the God of Being for all men (Exodus 3:14). He kept in mind his Hebrew relatives, and received his father-in-law's permission to return to Egypt. He put Zipporah and his first born son on a donkey, and they set out on their journey (Exodus 4:20). Jethro, as priest, surely gave this family all the religious support they needed for a proper ceremonial send-off, yet something was lacking, for as they went, forces that are difficult to understand, tried to do away with Moses. These forces were somehow overcome by the performance of the sacred religious rite of circumcision (Exodus 4:25, 26). This rite as described also in Joshua 5:2, is performed by a sharpened flint instrument, and Zipporah, as daughter of a priest, doubtless knew the proper words to say, and had the skill to perform the operation. The circumstances of Moses' infancy were not conducive to circumcision, and Moses at this point in his life may have been near death from a preputial infection. Translators of this passage are uncertain as to whom the he pronouns refer, but one thing is certain:— the life of Moses is spared as a result of Zipporah's deed. Her performance of the rite of circumcision on either her son or her husband, saved the situation. Moses was able to serve the Hebrew Exodus only because of the skillful and inspired action of a black woman.

In the female oriented religions of the ancient Near East, circumcision may have been regularly performed by a woman on her infant, and only later given into the custody of the male priesthood. The words, "You


 

are a bridegroom of blood to me," may have been the ritual words said by a woman who married an uncircumcised man. Having been raised in the pharaoh's household, Moses may not have been circumcised. Other religious symbolism is evidenced in the sprinkling of the blood. Leviticus 17:11 affirms that "blood which is life takes away sins." Could this be a compensatory act for the homicide that Moses had committed earlier? There is also the possibility that this passage is dealing with a formal consecration of Moses to the service of God, performed by his wife as priestess, where the anointing with blood purifies Moses for his destined work. In making Moses pleasing to God, either through healing skill, personal inspiration, or through proper performance of a religious ritual, Zipporah saved Moses' life, and thus enabled him to rescue the Hebrews from slavery and to assist them in becoming a people.

5.4 The Dismissal

Being the wife of an important man is never easy. If it's difficult today to be black and a woman, think what it must have been like 3300 years ago, wandering in the desert! Certain Hebrews considered Zipporah an outsider and resented her influence with Moses. Miriam, the prophetess, complained against Zipporah (Numbers 12:1), and the Lord punished Miriam for her prejudice by temporarily turning her skin as white as snow with leprosy. Some biblical interpreters see the diseased whitening of Miriam, as opposed to the healthy darker skin of Zipporah, as a sign of God's judgment against all forms of discrimination.

At the next instance of Hebrew rebellion, God offers to strike down these unruly people and to make of Moses (we assume with Zipporah) a great nation (Numbers 14:12; Exodus 32:9, 10). Moses is tempted to accept the offer, but he can't bear to desert those who are trusting God and himself to lead them to freedom. Does the fact that Moses opts for the Hebrews when given this choice, mean that he has to send his own family away? We know that at some point in the desert wanderings, Zipporah was dismissed, because later she returns bringing her father with her (Exodus 18:2). Jethro gives much good managerial advice to Moses, and then in the E-tradition tales, he returns to his own territory. In the J-tradition Moses tries to persuade his father-in-law to be their guide (Numbers 10:29-32), and it is later reported that a group of Kenites did go along with the Israelis (Judges 1:16). Could the cloud by day and the fire by night, as a sign of God's protective guidance, have been the signal fires set by Zipporah's trail blazing relatives?

5.5 Other Possible References to Zipporah

There may be other places in the Bible where we can find information about


 

Zipporah. Looking at the Book of Ruth, we come across a wonderful expression of love from a person of one tribe to a person from another. It is used today by blacks and whites to affirm their solidarity. It was supposedly used first by a Moabite daughter-in-law to confirm her devotion to her dead husband's mother. Where did the scribe who wrote at Solomon's court, or the redactor of Captivity times, get this choice tidbit? They supposedly had access to material handed down from Moses' time, where two people, perhaps Moses and Zipporah, might have had the opportunity to address these words to each other:— "Don't ask me to leave you. Let me go with you. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried. May the Lord's worst punishment come upon me if I let anything but death separate me from you" (Ruth 1:16).

Everyone thinks of Moses as the great law giver, but it is possible that he was also the great lover of the Song of Songs. If we look closely at the Song, we may find traces of Zipporah there. Solomon's scribes were not as successful as they would have liked to have been, in up-dating the love song to the days of Solomon. Women were rather oppressed in the days of Solomon, but it hadn't always been that way. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were described as being equal but different, helpmates, side by side. It may have been something like that in the thirteenth century BC when the Exodus took place, but in Solomon's time his women were collected together in a harem, and none of them was his equal. At least their daily needs were cared for. Other women in Solomon's culture had a harder time of it. If they were widowed and had no sons to support them, they had to cozy up to the next male kin of their deceased husband. Thus they would have a chance of becoming pregnant with a male child who could support them in their declining years. Women who had only daughters, were as badly off as women who had no children at all, in regard to financial stability. From the days of the wandering tribe with community support for all in need, Israel had come to a point where women could not inherit property, but were themselves property.3 The collective command of God to God's people, to honor their fathers and mothers, had degenerated into giving honor to certain authoritative males, and forcing women into prostitution to keep their stomachs filled. Our female writer of the Book of Genesis tells us about this situation in the story of Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38), which although told about a pre-Exodus individual, reflects a post-Exodus society.

The Song of Songs, as earlier material, speaks of a free-ranging love affair, where the woman runs after the man, just as much as the man seeks


 

out the woman. She takes him to her mother's house, not her father's. In this arrangement we catch a glimpse of a society where women could own property, as in Exodus times when Israel was still under the influence of the Egyptian culture in which women had rights as well as men.

We picture Moses as law giver, but we must remember that he had a human side. If he was capable of writing down history and law, he (or his wife) could have easily set down love poetry in gentler moments. These fragments might have been preserved with the legal and historical documents. The scribes of Solomon's day, valuing these writings from an earlier generation, would have put this material that they considered sacred, to good use, by attributing their sentiments to the king they served, and by inserting them into their tenth century BC liturgies.

In the eight century BC, The Song of Songs was read on the eighth day of the Passover celebration, which custom may have gone back for ages, even pre-Solomon. It may have played a part in the drama of the thirteenth century BC, and been a ship's captain type of marriage ceremony, for the unwedded of the original Exodus. Circulating through the Near East, parts of it may have been recited to bless marriages other than Hebrew, and to celebrate festivals to strange gods and goddesses. Besides its liturgical value, the Song was a celebration song, at banquet halls and at joyous public gatherings. The priestly leaders of the people tried to discourage this unseemly use of holy material. Even today we are instructed that this material refers to God and God's love for his people. Unfortunately, we don't often find God's people reciprocating so responsively.

The Song has an elusive geographical background. As the people who sang the Song moved around, they had to change a few words here and there, to fit their new locale. Place names come from Judea, Israel, Transjordan, and Syria. At one moment we are in the desert, and then we are confronted with a city environment. The bit about the watchmen on the walls of the city (Song 5:7) may have been inserted by the scribes of Solomon, to warn young women as to what might befall, if they took the Song too seriously and went out seeking their beloved in the middle of the night. The desert topography was of a safer pre-Solomon time, and nothing too serious would happen to a woman strolling around under the desert stars.

Reading through the Song we find a startling fact. This couple is inter-racial! The woman says, "I am black, but beautiful" (Song 1:5). She describes the man as "white and ruddy ... his head is golden ... his locks ... black as a raven; ... his belly is ivory ... his legs, alabaster ..." (5:10, 11, 14, 15). This black and white situation brings to mind the anger of Miriam, the prophetess, directed against a dark skinned woman (Numbers 12:1). The


 

Song 6:12 and 7:1 calls the woman a Sulamitess. Perhaps this can refer to a beautiful young woman, Abishag of Sulen, who became the wife of the aging king David. She won the beauty contest for all Israel, and thus her name may be an addition from Solomon's day. If we search further back into history, we find a tribal family in Numbers 26:42 called the Suhamites. The Suhamites may be descendents of Suham, or of a similar sounding name, Cham, who was also Ham, son of Noah (Genesis 5:31). Ham's descendents settled in Arabia and Africa. They are rumored to have been the ancestors of the black race. This interpretation of the word Sulamitess would fit in with the "black but beautiful" theme. Ham is the father of Cush, which ties in with the condemnation by Miriam. As Zipporah was black, we have our first piece of evidence that the Song may at one time have been the love song of Moses and his wife.

Another positive fact that favors the Moses' theory, is the occupation of the couple. We know that Zipporah was a herder of goats, because she met her husband while waiting to water her flock (Exodus 2:16). We know that Moses also herded for his father-in-law. The two people in this poem have the occupation of herders. In 1:7 the woman inquires, "Where will you lead your flock to graze?" The man answers that she should take her flock to graze close by the shepherd's tents. Herding was the occupation of many people in those early times, but it certainly was not the occupation of King Solomon (or his wives), so it is obvious that an editorial hand is putting in the king's name, without changing other details of the poem to correspond.4 Who are the herder-lovers? It is not likely that most of those who herded sheep and goats would be important enough people to rate their special place in an inter-racial love-song.

The love described in this Song seems very committed, but Moses and Zipporah had a problem with their togetherness. Moses "dismissed" his wife. This seems like a very sad end for such a burgeoning love affair. Exodus 18:2 describes Moses' father-in-law coming to the camp in the desert:— "Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, brought Moses' wife Zipporah - after she had been dismissed - with her two sons." Looking at the verb "dismissed" or the translation "he had sent her home," we note that they do not say that he had put her away or that he had divorced her. They may connote a simple permission. We ask ourselves for what reason Zipporah was allowed to return home. There is an answer in The Song of Songs. Verse 6:12 describes how in the spring time the woman was stricken with a terrible homesickness and wanted to be back among her own people. When a great leader has a beautiful black wife, who is lonely among all those whiteys who don't understand her, what does he do? He gives her permission to return to her own.


 

 

But they all miss her. All the women of Zion sing out for her to come back (Song 6:13). The woman wonders why the man wants her back. He has probably missed her cooking, but he says jokingly, "Because you dance so beautifully!" Zipporah could have been the leader of the women dancers in their campfire evenings under the desert stars. The name Zipporah has as one of its meanings "trumpet." Could Zipporah have had anything to do with the original sound effects that later accompanied the covenant drama described in Exodus 19:16 and 20:18? Zipporah may have had other parts to play in the original Exodus story. Song 3:6 questions, "Who is she that goeth up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices ...?" It continues on to describe King Solomon's warriors holding swords. It may be describing the attendants at a wedding festival in the desert. The first section about a pillar of smoke sounds like a throwback to Exodus 13:21. "The Lord went before them to show the way by day in a pillar of cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire." It has been suggested that this pillar of fire and cloud was the signal fire of friendly Kenites who were the pathfinders of Moses as he led his people through the desert. As Zipporah was a Kenite, she may have been the adventurous woman who helped to set the signal fires. At some point, this signal fire or pillar of cloud that represented a guiding Yahweh, ceased to lead the people, and at some point, Zipporah got homesick, and returned to her childhood home. On the other hand, both pillars in the Song and in Exodus may be referring to liturgical incense, used in a religious ceremony or wedding. We must keep in mind, however, that women are very capable of leading wilderness expeditions. In our own days we have the example of Sakajawea leading the Lewis and Clark exploration.

Another verse that causes us to think that Moses may be the Beloved, is Song 1:9. The Song ranges back and forth from desert to city. Solomon was a city lad. He doesn't fit in with the possible translation, "To my company of horsemen, in pharaoh's chariots, have I likened thee, my love." Pharaoh is another time and place than Solomon's Jerusalem. Who would be in with a company of pharaoh's horsemen, and also be a sheep herder? Moses seems like a likely candidate.

Song 8:2 has the woman taking the man to her mother's house. This was not likely to be King Solomon. Women would be taken to his house, never the other way around. Verse 5:16 has the woman calling her man friend. This is the highest tribute of a wife to her husband and none of Solomon's wives would have dared to call him friend. The equality of the Adam and Eve story is reflected in Song 7:10, "I to my beloved, and his


 

turning is towards me." They equally turn to each other.

The Song ends on the same note of equality. The couple are back in the desert. The choir sings, "Who is this that comes up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved?" It can represent Israel leaning on its God, or it can speak of Zipporah, side by side, with her husband.

5.6 Prejudice Against Sons of A Black Woman

Moses had many problems in leading the Hebrew people, but one particularly grave problem he had to face was that of leadership after his death. If we probe beneath the protective M(Z)-J-E-D-P cover of the Pentateuch, we find reference to this. With so many editors participating in the construction of the present Pentateuch, and considering the fragmentary nature of the material they possessed and the difficulty of precision when using targums, it is easy to see that names may have been slightly misspelled (at the very least), that genealogies may have been confused, that material intended for the lips of Moses may have been placed on the lips of Abraham, and that stories may have been altered to suit the necessities of the time of the editor. Scroll material was very hard to come by, and names (that the writer thought were obvious) and secondary words may have been omitted altogether in order to save space. Due to the scarcity of paper, a page might be written over with a different story, using the spaces between the lines. Those who specialize in deciphering old manuscripts are accustomed to sorting through several sets of writing on the same page. Even in Korea in 1950 a school child was expected to use his paper four times, twice in pencil written first horizontally, then vertically, and twice in ink over the lighter pencil markings. Thus, there is plenty of room for confusion when taking information off old manuscripts. However, all these deficiencies were overseen by the Holy Spirit, and used for the greater glory of God. In like manner, it is the Holy Spirit who uncovers these deficiencies in proper time for the further glory of God and the edification of God's people.

Moses was a great leader. In his time and culture, the sons of the great leader usually assumed the position of the father upon his demise. Moses had at least two sons. One was Gershom (meaning I am a stranger in a strange land), and the other was Eliezer (meaning God helps). Moses was married to a black woman. His children must have been on the dark side. Perhaps one was darker than the other. Perhaps Gershom had his name, as his blackness reminded Moses that Moses was a foreigner. Perhaps Moses saw Gershom as a foreigner. Eliezer may have been the lighter, or may have been born in a more acceptive phase of Moses' life, as his name has a more positive sound.


 

Neither of these sons is mentioned as the great leader who followed Moses. This choice fell upon Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim, a man who had been an assistant of Moses from his youth. Moses and Aaron in agreeing to have all Levites be the religious specialists of the community, drafted their own offspring into this service. I Chronicles 23:14 states that Moses' sons became priests.

Some feel the Bible implies that Moses, Aaron, and Miriam were all from the same family unit. This is not the case. They all may have been Levites, and thus from the same tribal unit, but their brother/sister relationship more likely stems from the fact that they were brother and sister prophets. Aaron and Moses were both from the tribe of Levi, and in establishing prophetic and religious leadership, they settled on the tribe of Levi to provide it. As Aaron was appointed the leader of the religious services, as opposed to Moses' position as judge and commander, the priests are referred to as sons of Aaron as well as being termed Levites. Moses' sons are included in the sons of Aaron, as they are from the tribe of Levi. In the land apportionments, Gershom's descendents are given a Levitical portion of the land (Joshua 21:6).

The first Levitical priest was Aaron himself. Aaron had four sons, by a pedigreed Hebrew wife, Elisheba, but unfortunately two of these sons somehow offended God and died (Numbers 3:4; Leviticus 10:1-7). The problem of alcoholism is mentioned, and Aaron was requested not to mourn them. One of the remaining sons was named Eleazar, which may be a mix-up with Eliezer, son of Moses, who acted in official capacity as son of Aaron.

It seems that Eliezer (or Eleazar) wasn't expected to fill the leadership shoes of his father Moses. In two sections of the Pentateuch, we have men lamenting that they don't have a son to succeed them. We have Moses praying to the Lord asking who shall be his successor (Numbers 27:15-17). The Hebrew belief was that one achieved immortality through one's offspring. To have progeny was the greatest gift that a person could receive from God. Abraham particularly wanted offspring by his primary wife Sarah, so that he could believe the child was really his. Abraham lets fall the phrase, "I have no offspring but Eliezer the Damascene" (Genesis 15:2). If Damascene refers to a foreign looking person, as from the city of Damascus, perhaps this line should have been put on the lips of Moses, who may have been lamenting the unacceptability of dark skinned leadership for the early Hebrew community.

All things didn't go well in the desert with Moses. The people revolted for various reasons; they were hungry; they wanted a piece of the


 

leadership; Miriam objected to the color of Moses' wife. Can it be that the people he guided, in their pristine Hebrew unity, objected to Moses' colorblindness, that he learned at Pharaoh's court? In his youth in Egypt Moses had come to see that the black royalty from southern Egypt were welcomed equally at the king's residence, with the white royalty from the north.5 The pharaoh himself may have been multi-racial. The pharaoh's daughter who fished Moses from the Nile, may have been dark. Moses had grown up without racial prejudice and married a black woman, but he may have had his doubts in the desert when some of his fellow tribespeople were biased, and he may have felt slightly hurt that as a light colored father, he was given no light colored sons. God comforted Moses in regards to leadership by sending Joshua. In this instance the Bible gives us an example of present fulfillment of prophecy, and future fulfillment of prophecy. The immediate fulfillment to Moses is Joshua, son of Nun. The future fulfillment is Jesus, prophet, priest, and king. It is interesting that the name Joshua can be equated with the name Yeshua or Jesus, and that the meaning of this name is salvation. God's salvation led the people to the promised land in Joshua. ALL people are led to their fulfillment by Jesus, God's savior. The Bible is truly a wonderful book to deliver God's message to different people in different times. God also comforts Moses by offering to make of Moses a great nation, and threatening to destroy the unruly Israelites. Moses is pictured as contemplating leaving the tribes to their own devices in the wilderness. He would go off with his dark sons, and become a great tribe through them. Moses is too noble to desert the Hebrews even for this tempting reward of eternal life through his own descendents.

Zipporah had a part to play in this scene of persecution and in Moses' decisions. When the tribal powers objected to her blackness and the blackness of her children, she went back to her father. When things cooled down, she returned with her sons. Exodus 18:2 calls them her sons, rather than Moses' sons, or his sons, which may denote that their blackness set them apart. It is stated that Zipporah's father returned with her and gave Moses advice on how to share the leadership with people in the tribe. This wisdom may have come from Zipporah herself and been clothed with authority by being credited to her father. Moses' wife as an intelligent and gifted woman could see that she and the sons were a threat to the unity and the safety of the tribe. With her to complain about, the tribe would revolt against Moses and be lost in the wilderness. As Jesus became the Passover sacrifice for all people, Zipporah became the sacrificial goat laden with the problems of the tribe, who went out from the camp as an atonement offering. She put herself and the children as of less concern than the good of the


 

whole community. She returned bringing community building assistance, in the form of the wise words of her father. It is not reported anywhere that either of her sons attempted to assume the commander status of their father Moses. Joshua is groomed for this position, with no objections. He is formally inducted as leader before Eleazar and the whole community (Numbers 27:18-23).

5.7 Zipporah As Savioress

This concerned attitude by the wife of Moses was one instance where she helped the cause of the Jewish race without selfish regard for herself. If Zipporah wished to do so, she probably could have talked Moses into leaving the quarrelsome Hebrews behind, as Moses loved her very much and was glad to follow her advice. Without Moses, the Hebrews might have disintegrated in the wilderness, and the darker colored "Mosites" would have turned out to be God's chosen people destined to bring God's salvation to the world. This woman was willing to diminish herself for her community, even though she experienced rejection from certain members of the group because of her color.

We must keep in mind Zipporah's other saving action, when she performed the priestly rite of circumcision on the road to Egypt. This action by his wife freed Moses so that his life could be dedicated to the service of the Hebrew people. Zipporah's name and lineage are set down in the Pentateuch because she was a very important person. Those who read the Bible from a patriarchal point of view are inclined to dismiss this woman completely and to give all the applause to her husband. We should give credit to both of them, and we should emphasize the holiness and wholeness of their marriage. They were a couple who each comprised the capabilities of prophet, priest, and leader; a couple who gave their all for their community.

5.8 Community In The Old Testament

Moses and Zipporah as leaders, show us God's methods of forming loving community in the Old Testament. Sacrifice and total dedication are required. God inspired this woman and man to form certain community patterns and to set down certain guiding regulations.

Before they were able to lead the Hebrew community effectively, they had to have harmony and support in their community of two. They had to operate from a marriage commitment based on equality and concern; their loving acceptance of each other is reflected in the Song of Songs. They were friends to each other, and not only friends, but they inspired each other to fulfillment. Zipporah was somehow able to confirm her husband's mission to the pharaoh through the circumcision incident of Exodus 4:24-26.


 

She was also able to give Moses guidance by bringing her father's experience in governing and guiding others, to the Hebrew camp.

Through Zipporah's presentation of the wisdom of Jethro (Exodus 18), the tribes turned from the autocratic leadership of Moses, to the appointment of judges and leaders, who listened to the people in smaller consentaneous groups. Difficult questions were referred to the Holy Spirit working in Moses. In Numbers 11 it is reported that God poured out the Spirit on seventy chosen elders gathered at the Tent of Meeting, so that they could better advise the members of the community. Not only did God inspire those who attended the meeting, but God also inspired two elders who stood outside of the worshipping group. Eldad and Medad, as representatives of those not wholly in accord with the governing body, also were able to prophesy, for the benefit of those they represented. The love of God for the total community, both those incorporated with the Tent of Meeting, and those who stood apart, is shown in the meanings of the names of Eldad and Medad. Eldad has the meaning God is loving, and Medad means Beloved or Be loving. I would like to insert the suggestion that they may have been women elders who felt that their presence at the Tent of Meeting might have been considered presumptuous. God stands with those who stand apart, as well as with the majorities. God respects our differences, and he delights when humans set aside their differences and accept one another in love.

At a certain point in history, the Hebrew tribes consolidated and there was an upsurge of coordinated community, a growth and broadening of the whole human perspective. This consolidation was based on the loving nucleus of two people. Because two people supported each other, and encouraged each other's faith, many other people of their time, and millions of others down through the centuries, were given the benefit of guiding laws and peaceful communities.

Abuses crept in. Those in power used the law to control others, rather than to build the community of love. Fourteen hundred years later we have the author Luke quoting Jesus as saying, "Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness"(Luke 11:39). "Alas for you lawyers also because you load on men burdens that are unendurable, burdens that you yourselves do not move a finger to lift"(Luke 11:46). "Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to"(Luke 11:52).

The prophets had been forecasting that there would be God's messenger, the Messiah, who would come to bring loving community to the world.


 

Jesus Christ personified God's love. Those who heard him remembered his words and deeds and set down his prescriptions for fulfilled community. Even before his time, there were other changes in the way of understanding holy community that took place in the Hebrew culture.

Moses' law was given as God's guiding hand to peaceable community. Inability to keep the law, was described as "missing the mark." Humankind had freedom of choice to comply, or the individual might make poor choices and miss his goal. From the early Genesis theology of a good God creating a good world, other theologies evolved describing the notion of personal sin and societal sin. Besides being a rupture of community, sin became something basically wrong with the human race. Some saw sin as a product of a lesser god named the devil, urging us towards our downfall. Humanity grasps at straws in the wind in order to explain evil and deny responsibility for its actions. We are still searching for the proper combination of love and authority to guide humanity to the ideal community.

NOTES

1 Maurice H. Harris, Hebraic Literature (New York: Tudor, 1936), p. 185, Shabbath fol. 13 col.2.

2 Alexander Crudens, Complete Concordance (Philadelphia: Lippincott, no date), p. 718.

3 Numbers 27:1-11 presents a legal instance for the inheritance of daughters in the Mosaic Code. In practice, the daughters were expected to marry male relatives.

4 King Solomon may possibly be referred to as a shepherd, in the sense of a shepherd of the Lord's people.

5 Herodotus 7:70 describing the Persian army distinguishes between Asiatic Ethiopians and African Ethiopians, confirming biblical recognition of two races.


 

Chapter VI: THE PERENNIAL PROBLEM
OF SIN

6.1 Cultural Interpretations of Genesis

The whole Bible sings of the marvel of men and women. It tells us what is wonderful about ourselves. We lose some of this wonder when we accept stereotypical interpretations that come about from one culture misunderstanding the culture of another. God's Word as set down in the Bible is a living word and contains new insights and fresh revelations for us who read it today against a backdrop of a changing world. Old wine is good for the old bottles, and new wine should be put into new (Matthew 9:17). The new wine of fresh insight into God's wisdom has always flowed freely to his beloved humanity across every race and culture. God gives new theological inspiration for new times and new seasons. If we read his word prayerfully and carefully, trying to understand what the message was for the people in whose times it was written, and then attempt to reinterpret that message for ourselves today, we will find enriching applications that will lead us to a more fulfilled existence.

The main author of Genesis theologized about the First Cause and came up with a story of our beginnings which she hoped would inspire the people of her day and also people of future times (Isaiah 49:6). As human beings have beginnings and endings, we stretch our minds to try to think of God in his beginnings. The Peaceful author, considering the picture from a time-bound viewpoint, visualized a God with no creation, way back in the dim reaches of the past. She described the allegorical manufacture of the world, but she gave no reasons for this creative urge of God. Next she brought the human on the scene, and in this section, she gave us reasons. Things seemed to happen when an allegorical snake talked, and human beings created with freedom to choose, used poor judgment. Our author was trying to explain why there was evil in the world, when a good God had just made a good creation.

The early theologizing human didn't think that much about evil and sin in himself. It was easy for primitive societies to explain evil as lesser gods acting up. Good gods were usually considered to be the more powerful, so they were able to straighten things out. What was wrong with the world, wasn't so much humanity, as it was these lesser gods. This theory seemed to solve the problem of evil in a fairly satisfactory manner. However, if your tribe became monotheistic, and your religion couldn't admit


 

to the possibility of any lesser gods, you would have to discard this naughty-gods-make-evil theory and find another explanation. Our author and other theologians of her time were working on this problem. They set aside the notion of other gods, and also, temporarily, the notion of an evil angel. The snake for them may have been a representation of human wisdom, more than it was intended to give any idea of a devil. They decided that humankind itself had the freedom to make evil, and also the responsibility to try to create loving community, to protect against this human-made evil.

Many stories similar to the Adam and Eve story of creation were circulated orally through the Near East. The Moses traditions on our beginnings were restructured by the Peaceful author to be theologically correct, and it is principally to her that we owe the story of the seven days of creation. One of the purposes behind this blessing of the seventh day (Genesis 2:3) was to emphasize to her compatriots in captivity in Babylon the need to keep the Sabbath holy. She was trying to explain to her fellow exiles why they had been displaced from their beloved land. Her message to a weary generation torn with the distress of exile and concerned with this banishment as a punishment for their sins, was that God had created the world and humankind, and that the world and humankind were both good.

Moses or his wife Zipporah, and other pre-Peaceful authors also contributed to Genesis. For authors who contributed before the Babylonian captivity, evil and sin were looked upon quite differently than we view them today. Sin might be thought of as a "missing the mark" which had been set down in the perfections of the law. Evil could come upon a person for following after strange gods, or worshipping the true God in an incorrect manner. Evil could be handed down to you from your parents. Those born lame or blind were considered to have somehow offended God (by their own actions or through the misdeeds of their ancestors) and thus were excluded from usual temple worship (Leviticus 21:18-20).

After the carrying away of the tribes to Babylon, much thought was given to the many just persons who had suffered even though their conduct was exemplary. God's anger seemed to fall on good and evil alike, but Ezekiel, the theologian for his time, affirmed that God still stood beside the just man (Ezekiel 14:12-23). The question of sin as due to man's free choice comes up in the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 18) and was probably much discussed in the exile community. The Peaceful author, the final editor of the Moses' traditions, had listened to all these theological discussions about sin, punishment, and responsibility, and she continued to reaffirm that all things were being taken care of by a good God. She believed that although man had to work and woman had to suffer in childbirth, ultimately one


 

would come who would get the serpent (or worldly wisdom) under control.

Many varying theological messages can be gotten from the study of this Adam and Eve story. Jewish rabbis and followers of Christianity from the time of the Peaceful author until our own day have come up with fresh life-giving interpretations. Paul and Jesus, as specialists in rabbinical lore, are each credited with a teaching which brings in threads of this creation story. Augustine derives his theory of original sin from it, a shifting of guilt which comforted the people of his day. Freud reads other psychological meanings into it, for a more scientific generation.1 Some readers are desirous of taking the story literally; others see metaphors and anthropomorphisms. As we are all different, we each get out of every Bible passage only what we have the ability to extract, and what we will accept as reasonable from others who have studied it before us. Individual great thinkers with varying viewpoints, who pull seemingly opposing interpretations out of this passage do not replace or conflict with one another, but are the means whereby we are inspired and can build enriched theologies.2 Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there are innumerable possibilities of learning from this early folk tale.

The Adam and Eve story has often been studied from the viewpoint of the first sin of humanity. Another favorite emphasis is its creational aspect. I should like to look at it from the perspective of loving community. What is this story saying about humanity, both male and female? For so long, our first parents have been observed from behind patriarchal glasses. I would like to see the creation story as showing possibilities of human fulfillment, rather than sin. Many books could be written from this fulfillment viewpoint, but I will content myself with only a few observations to open up regions for further discussion.

6.2 Translating The Word "Adam"

Many new readings of inspired literature come about through a clarified translation of a single word. When early Hebrew is translated into Greek and retranslated into English, there are several possibilities of misunderstanding the proper meaning of a word or a phrase. The word for humanity in Hebrew is ha adam. This is easy for a translator to confuse with adam which all by itself, without the ha means man. It is also easy to confuse with the name of a person, Adam, who is introduced as the first man in this story of our early beginnings (not until Genesis 4:25, or perhaps not until 5:1). Pick up your Bible and read Genesis 1:1 to 2:17, and for every word man substitute the word humanity or humankind. The crucial part will read like this:_

"Then God said, `Let us make humanity in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish in the sea, the birds of


 

heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.' God created humankind in the image of himself, in the image of God he created it, male and female he created them. God blessed them saying to them, `Be fruitful, multiply...'"(Genesis 1:26-28). Further down in Genesis 2:15 is the information, "Yahweh took humankind and settled one of them in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it. Then Yahweh gave humankind this admonition, `You may eat indeed of all the trees in the garden...'"

Starting with Genesis 2:18, the author had to make a choice as she began to speak of humankind in the singular. This brings up another important difference between our English language, and both Greek and Hebrew, which is usually overlooked by translators. To put this difference as simply as possible, let's take again the English statement, "She sees" (Section 1.4). Translating the Greek letters into recognizable English counter parts, we come up with the Greek word blepei, which means "She sees." There is no pronoun she as that is contained in the verb form blepei. This situation would be perfectly all right and quite usable, except that the English for "He sees" and the English for "It sees" also use the same verb structure blepei. When a translator of the New Testament comes up against the Greek word blepei, he/she automatically translates it as "He sees," unless there are other qualifying words in the sentence that let one know a woman is in the picture. Frequently one can find these other qualifying words, so that the translator can get a comprehensive picture.

However, in Greek and in Hebrew, too, there is a secondary problem with these qualifying words. Suppose we are talking in Greek about a teacher who is a woman. Greek has male nouns, female nouns, and neuter nouns. The English word teacher can be referred back to in a sentence, by using either the pronoun he or she to designate the sex of the teacher. The Greek word for teacher, didaskalos, is a male word and any pronouns used in the sentence to refer back to it do not take into consideration the sex of the person spoken of, but only the gender of the word, which is of male gender. We cannot learn from the Greek language whether the teacher is male or female in its person, unless a specific female name is given, or unless it is explicitly said that this teacher is a woman.

Another example of a male gender noun is the Greek word for disciple, which has to do with a student witnessing to his master's teachings. All pronouns that might refer back to this word disciple must agree with the male gender of the word, even though they may be talking about a female person who has done the witnessing. As the Greek language uses the male gender for words such as teacher, bishop, humankind, ruler, presbyter,


 

and apostle, a whole story could have been written about a female elder or presbyter or teacher in the first century AD, and it might contain no female pronouns to let translators know that a woman was involved. If this person had a female name, then translators might suspect that this was a woman, and translate the male gender pronouns as she. However, if this church person had a unisex name such as Polycarp, no one would have reason to know if the individual were a male or a female. It is easy to see that proper understanding of one word can make a tremendous difference in a translation.

6.3 Enlarging on The Peaceful Author's Theology

With these renewed warnings about the underlying sexism contained in the Greek and Hebrew languages, let's return to Adam and Eve. We were saying that the author had to make a choice. Perhaps it was not the author but the interpreters in her society who made the choice. The choice appears to be to use the male singular as the original human, and to add to it, the female. It could have been done in the opposite manner, and the story would have been just as realistic. Because of this choice of interpretation, many people have concluded that man is more important than woman. There is no reason to hold up one sex as better than the other, but people choose to believe what they want to believe, and go with what makes them comfortable. Those who are grounded in a patriarchal society, often will hold firmly onto the tenets of that society, as a sort of life boat, or protection against the unknown. Security, for them, consists in going along with the powers that be.

It probably was not the author's belief that man is more important than woman, but these imperfections of society are allowed by the Holy Spirit working through a specific age and culture. The Spirit blesses humankind with the ideas that are the most fulfilling for that culture. As we are human, there are many ideas about the infinite God that we cannot grasp, but as age follows age, it is to be hoped that we come closer to the ideal of love that created us.

The author of this section of Genesis did an excellent job of portraying male-female equality. However, she might have been distressed if she could have looked into the future and known what injustices would occur because of her particular rendering of the Garden of Eden story. Words are such fragile bearers of the message! They are also a wonderful gift that God has given us, for us to use to increase love in the world. Our interpretations can go in either direction. They can further community, or they can make rifts in it, and wound others. Our author did a very inspired job with a difficult topic. She certainly could not have given a female emphasis to the Adam and Eve incident, because then all the males would have suffered.


 

Genesis 2:18-25 might be more unbiased as follows:

"Yahweh God said, `It is not good that a human being should be alone. I will make this one a helpmate.' So from the soil Yahweh God fashioned all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the human being to see what that one would call them; each animal was to bear the name the human being would give it. The human being gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of heaven, and all the wild beasts. But no helpmate suitable for the human being was found for the human being. So Yahweh God made the human being fall into a deep sleep. And while that one slept, God took one of that one's ribs and enclosed it in flesh. Yahweh God built the rib God had taken from the human being into another human being, similar, yet different, and brought this new one to the original human being. The original human being exclaimed: `This at last is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh This is to be called a human being equal to myself, for this one is made of myself.'"

Reading this selection in this manner enables one to see why a human being leaves the father and mother and joins to the helpmate, and they become one body. They can become this one body, for they are made of the same original material, the stuff of earth. Not only can we see here a reason for a loving marriage, but because all human beings are made from the same original material, the stuff of earth, we should be able to empathize with one another, and become one loving cooperative community whenever we come into contact with one another.

When the story of the creation of humanity is set down in the above manner, one can see a reason for the writer or the interpreters using the man as the original human being, instead of the woman. If the woman were used, the story of Genesis would bear a striking resemblance to stories of the earth mother goddess androgynously bearing the first male human in her womb. The author of Genesis is stressing that both male and female are formed from the stuff of the earth. They are not chromosomal offspring of a god or goddess. Their resemblance to God is that they are made in God's image, spiritually free, but they are made materially from the dust of the earth.

In the ancient Near East the myth of the mother goddess persisted, as an explanation for the human race. In tilting away from this Great Mother theory, the writer of Genesis is put into the awkward position of getting a woman out of a man. Her allegory of a rib suffices to do this, and successfully imparts side by side equality to male and female. If we continue on and read the rest of the Garden of Eden story with this different, but equal, viewpoint, we will see that the whole emphasis is on the equality of man


 

and woman before God and before each other. It also destroys the superiority-of-women notion inherent in the Mother Nature version.

Up to this point in the story, man and woman don't know the difference between good and evil, and have no responsibilities. They dwell as thoughtlessly as cows munching the grass in a lush meadow. The snake, as a symbol of wisdom, makes its first pitch to the woman, as wisdom is usually personified as female, such as the goddess Athena of the Greeks. With all this symbolic wisdom lined up in front of him, the man comes off looking a bit pushed to one side, as the less important actor in the scene, but this isn't the reality of the matter. The man is right there on the spot, in the thick of things, side by side with his wife, the way he should be. "She took some of the fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her and he ate it" (Genesis 3:6b), as women are usually the servers of the food in a family situation. The man and the woman are both given a free choice decision, and together, as equals, they leave the Garden.

That's the way it is, isn't it? Each individual has free choice. One can live in blissful ignorance in the Garden of Eden, or one can seek to find out what the world is all about. One can try to puzzle out the purpose for the creation of humanity, and the basis for belief in the existence of God. One can search for answers as to how one should behave, and attempt to take care of one's spiritual and physical needs and those of others. Living life outside the Garden is rough going, but only outside the Garden is there the possibility of fulfillment.

In the Garden the human being can be in a state of blissful ignorance, refusing to admit that the existence of God can never be proved. He unthinkingly accepts any dogmas that are given to him, and feels secure as long as no one gives him reason to question these beliefs. Like a Klu Klux Klan member, he refuses to look beyond the bounds of his narrow vision, and convinces himself that the totality of God is contained there with him, in his narrow confines. Like an animal, he receives as his just due, the largess of nature, and has no concern for others who may be needy near-by. However, wisdom has a way of snaking into these little personal paradises with provocative questions and suggestions that stimulate a human being into responsible actions. A person can develop an elitist attitude of I know God and I'm saved; it's too bad about the rest of the human race who are such sinners. He can imagine himself in a state of bliss where God is taking care of him, and this is a desirable state for an individual. It is good to behave morally and to have personal faith in God, but it doesn't effectively further the process of loving world community. The person can go one step further, and admit that he doesn't really know anything for sure, that faith


 

is not-knowing. Faith is unreasonable trust in something that can't be proved. That one further step takes the person out of the Garden and puts him in the position of seeker of knowledge. That person is trying to understand humanity and life and the God that may be behind all life. Of that person, God can say, "The human has become like one of us, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:22). Humanity has become partners with God, in God's plan for the earth.

At some point in our evolutionary processes upon the earth, humanity came into existence. The human being could reflect in upon itself, and observe certain things about itself; it could plan its actions, and look ahead to death. At this point humanity "knew that it knew."3 Further along this evolutionary path came the moment when humanity "knew that it didn't really know."4 They ate the forbidden fruit, and the inquiring mind was created. They accepted the responsibility for their actions and left the Garden of dependent ignorance. They went out of the Garden together, as they had been created, side by side, made from the same stuff of earth, equal but different. "He banished humanity, and in front of the Garden he posted the cherubs, and the flame of a flashing sword ..." (Genesis 3:24).

6.4 The Fall or The Rising?

Why was this called a fall?

There were two trees in the center of the Garden of Eden. One was the tree of life and the other was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Only the fruit from this second tree was forbidden. Man and woman chose freely to partake of the tree of knowledge. Surely this wasn't a fall!

Many ideas of heaven existed in early communities. Paradise or heaven or the place where God dwelt, was considered to be on the top of the mountain or up in the sky, so humanity's descent from the home of God to terra firma may have been logically described as a descent or a fall. It was not necessarily a departure from something good to something worse. In the paradise of the Greek gods and goddesses, there may have been more quarrels and dirty deeds in heaven, than there were on earth.

Thus humanity in the Garden Story may have progressed from one set of living conditions, to a more demanding set that encouraged development of their abilities. God may have condemned man to tilling the soil, and woman to child bearing when he hustled them out of the Garden, but in Genesis 2:15, the original human (man or woman) was already farming the Garden, and in 1:28, both partners are told to be fruitful, so we can't consider this a terrible penalty (Genesis 3:16-19). Although God curses the snake, the consequences on it aren't too heavy either, for it is already crawling on the ground in Genesis 1:26.


 

We have been led to believe by patriarchal interpretations through the centuries (such as Augustine's)5 that the snake represents the devil, and the passage about women serving their husbands is a direct command from God for beaten wives to accept black eyes joyfully. When this passage was written the snake was considered to be the wisest of all the animals.6 It was a symbol of healing wisdom, as in the present day Aesculapian snake-and-cross motif used on physicians' certifications, and as in Numbers 21:9 when Moses fashioned a bronze serpent and commanded his afflicted tribespeople to look upon it and be healed. They were looking to healing wisdom for a cure. The Gospel of John 3:13-15 compared Jesus as healing wisdom to the lifting up of the bronze serpent of Moses. Dan's blessing from his father Jacob (Genesis 49:17) was that Dan should be, serpentlike, a wise judge. Jacob was not wishing something evil on his son. Even Jesus recommended to his apostles that they possess the wisdom of the serpent (Matthew 10:16) yet still be harmless as doves. It should be noted that wisdom is often not harmless when used by reckless humans; scientific knowledge can feed the world or destroy it.

The Peaceful author of this serpent story is not so much emphasizing a God who curses soil and animals and who condemns woman to a second-class citizenship as she is telling us that she has pin-pointed certain things that are wrong with her contemporaneous society. In her Babylonian exile she has thought a lot about these imperfections of community, such as oppression of women and greedy misuse of healing and religious knowledge, and she is explaining the existence of these imperfections through this mythical story of early beginnings.

She is saying that we have these human conditions of oppression and servitude because of the way God made us with freedom of choice. She is telling her society that they should shape up and make better choices. The Garden for her smug elitist tribes people may have been Palestine; the place into which they were cast in order to learn more about loving community, was Babylonia. She is saying to the Hebrews that they wouldn't have been punished by being dragged off to Babylon, if only they had accepted responsibility and made better choices in their beloved homeland. The self-centeredness of the Hebrew community with its patriarchal power base, led to its downfall.

God does not punish us, so much as we bring these consequences on ourselves. It is our own choices that have caused us to be a male-dominated society. We prefer to see ourselves as the chosen and the superior, rather than to practice humble love and justice for the oppressed, as taught by Jesus. The subjugation of women to their husbands is not an order (or a


 

curse) from God; it is what we have done to ourselves and our community, and the Peaceful author is telling us that this is far from optimum behavior. The Peaceful author affirms that God has made everything good (Genesis 1:3), and she names the malfunctions that humans have brought on themselves by their self-centered actions.

Actually the exile in Babylon was good for the Hebrew people. It turned their hearts back to God. Think of the hours of meditation, the time spent copying the "Book of The Law," the fruitful discussions on God and his purposes, by the Peaceful author and her friends, which never would have taken place in the secure homeland! Perhaps the author saw this growth of her people and thus in her story was commending man and woman for the choice that took them out of the Garden.

The story goes that God cares for us in a beautiful garden where nothing is required of us, but to eat fruit from the trees and to loaf in the sun. Is there any motive for us to learn to care for ourselves and for each other? Adam and Eve were wise to choose the study of good and evil, the problems of good choices and lesser choices; they were wise to accept the pain of child bearing and the toil of wrestling a living from the soil (or God as All-wise, showed his infinite love for us by allowing this situation to develop). In the beginning Adam and Eve were unconcerned about community, about the effect of their choices on one another. Under the snake's prodding (under the guidance of healing wisdom), they chose to eat the fruit, to be concerned with life, and to be responsible individuals. Thanks be to God!

Suppose they had eaten of the fruit of the first mentioned tree, the tree of life (Genesis 2:9)? Suppose we could live forever? If we could live forever, there would be no point to most of the things we do. We could always put off until tomorrow whatever it pleased us to postpone. There would be no requirement to work in the vineyard for our needs or the needs of others, because no need could bring us to the point of death. We would exist forever, meaningless blobs, on the face of the earth. We would exist, but we wouldn't really live. It is the temporary nature of our condition, that makes a human creative and useful to his neighbor. It is our knowledge of finitude that causes us to perform actions that may have infinite directions. If we could have life eternal, by eating of the fruit of the first mentioned tree, it would be a life not worth living. Death gives us reason to live!

Perhaps that is why God created us. In his never-dying, he was denied the fulfillment that comes from being time bound. Through us, he can act in a finite environment. If we could live forever, would there be any need for us to love? Perhaps love needs a time bound situation.


 

By eating of the fruit of the second tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, humankind progressed from the safe secure spot of no fulfillment. It progressed from being placid cattle eating grass thoughtlessly in the eternal meadow, to thinking beings fighting the treacherous battles of our material everydays. Winning these battles, with the help of our God, gives the human being a sense of fulfillment.

It might be downright boring to live forever and have no challenges. God has given to human beings the choice of being active for the good of humankind, or of selfishly dwelling in Eden admiring our navels. God has offered to us and to succeeding generations the opportunity to be partners with him in the creation of a world unified in love. Leaving Paradise was never a disaster. It was the wonder of humankind accepting the responsibility of being human. It was humankind stepping out on the path of loving community. This microcosm of community is sketched strikingly through the skill of the Peaceful one, as a family of two, Eve and Adam, side by side, rising to challenges. She shows us these prototypes of the human race, going forth to participate in new possibilities of cooperation and empathy.

6.5 Original Sin

Instead of looking at the Garden story as having to do with fulfillment, let's see what it might say about sin. Later day authors were determined to find something wrong with the goings-on in the Garden. Humanity has short comings, and we search around for someone to blame. How convenient to blame what is wrong with the world on legendary ancestors! Anything seems preferable than outright accepting the blame for our failures. Perhaps that is what is wrong with the incident in the Garden. Look what Adam did to Eve! God said, "Why did you do it?" and Adam implied that it was the helpmate who made him do it. If original sin means a typical basic ignoble action that all of us do, blaming someone else is surely that repetitive act. We make laws so that we can point the finger at those who break them, and get a sense of superiority for ourselves. Finger pointing to make ourselves look good is the basic problem of the human ego.

The first sin had nothing to do with sex. God made sex, and it was a good gift, and supposedly there weren't any third parties around to mess up the good relationship that existed between Adam and Eve. The first sin may have been the disobedience of eating the forbidden fruit, but we get the implication that God really admired the couple for daring to try to be wise. If there was any sin, it was the sin of un-love. The human pointed at his helpmate, in order to preserve his own great self-image before God. He displayed no empathy for his helpmate. He was selfish! The human's action


 

made a rift in the community that God was hoping they would build.

The helpmate's motivation likewise left a lot to be desired. She blamed the situation. We could interpret the snake for her, as the wisdom incorporated in society, and we could excuse her by saying that the ways of her culture were irresistible. Many of us want to believe that we are the products of our society, and therefore can't be expected to act independently of that society. With the woman, we don't want to take responsibility for our actions, particularly if we might find ourselves in conflict with our culture. How many of us float from day to day in the ocean of experience, and let the tides push us around! The formation of loving community requires positive actions on our part. Drifting with the waves leaves the whole thing up to chance. We must form our fundamental beliefs on God's purposes for us, set our sights on the good we hope to create in our lives and the lives of others, and take constructive actions that we believe will fulfill those purposes of God. The woman may have loved her helpmate, but she wasn't about to go out on a limb to make a point about it. She, also, was self-centered.

Augustine may have acquired his notion of original sin from the fact that we all start off life being basically self-centered. However, this self-centeredness has the advantage of keeping the human race alive. Looking at the situation from an evolutionary viewpoint, we might have died out long ago, if we were all willing to give up our lives altruistically in every difficult circumstance. But besides creating us with the urge to self-preservation, God also created all these wonderful possibilities that we have for loving and helping one another. The Genesis author does not lay her emphasis on original sin, but confirms the goodness of God and the goodness of creation. Due to this original blessing of God by God's gift of the earth to us humans, we are free to act responsibly in love and to build the earth into a heaven.

6.6 Jesus On Adam and Eve

Jesus, the Messiah, read Genesis. What did he make of the two trees and the banishment? We know that he was thoroughly cognizant of the allegory of Adam and Eve, because when the Pharisees asked him about divorce, he answered, "Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, a man must not divide"(Matthew 19:3).

The men of Jesus' day ran a patriarchal society, where man was king. If his wife served him a meal he didn't like, the husband could tell her to


 

get out, and then at his convenience, he could select another woman as a replacement. Some people thought that this was a little hard on the original wife and that divorce should be permitted only for weighty matters, such as a wife committing adultery or otherwise breaking the law. Thus the disputing groups asked Jesus for a decision:_ Could a man divorce his wife for any petty reason?

Jesus saw the plight of the cast-off wife. He saw the equality of the man and the woman in the Genesis story. He saw that the women of his day did not have this equality. He saw that the throw-away wives were denied their right to livelihood, that they were forced into prostitution to acquire food for their stomachs. He answered his questioners by reminding them of the equality of men and women before God and of the loving union that can be created by a coming together of equals. The loving community of two that was held up as an example in Genesis 1, had been reduced by Jesus' contemporaries to an unstable relationship that could be ended by the word of a man. Jesus' conclusion was that it was unseemly for one of the partners to end this partnership, especially when it meant the destruction of the other partner, the woman. There was something totally unloving about this whole Palestinian divorce situation. Moses permitted it in the law because men had such unloving hearts. Jesus turned the tables on his male questioners who felt they had the right to divorce a wife for HER sins. He told them they would be the ones who were considered the sinners. They would be guilty of adultery if they put aside their wife to marry another. He expected men to have loving consideration for their wives. The husbands should accept their wives imperfections, as their wives were required by the Hebrew society to quietly put up with all that was difficult in their men.

The totality of Jesus' message is even more emphatic about the relationships among men and women. It asks for love. It requires that there should be not just a resigned acceptance among men and women, but that both women and men should love, forgive, and encourage one another. As loving friendship exists only between equals, a good marriage requires considerate equality.

6.7 Paul and The Garden

We see that the Bible starts off with an affirmation of the equality of women, and that this positive direction is continued in the teaching of Jesus. This same gallant attitude is found in the writings of Paul. It may waver in the writings that are set down by the disciples of Paul, under his name, as in I Timothy.7 It may have been this same disillusioned disciple that slipped an insert in the truly Pauline document of I Corinthians. In I Corinthians 7:10-16


 

Paul gently affirms the equality of women. In I Corinthians 14 Paul is talking about prophesying, and at verse 33b we are confronted by an insert, that sounds very much like the writer of I Timothy. He changes the subject from prophesying, to women, and insists on their non-equality as in the Jewish synagogue, to prove his point. Then the interrupted text goes back to its discussion of prophesy in verse 36. The truly Pauline writings always emphasize the equality of women with men.

Check this inserted text out in your Bible (I Corinthians 14:33b-35). It is very obvious that it is an insert of unrelated material, and that the true Paul writes affirmatively on women in the earlier chapter seven of I Corinthians.

The real Paul's esteem for women can be seen in his special mention of Phoebe in Romans 16:1. Most translations describe Phoebe as our sister, but the word sister is not the word Paul used. If you were a sister, you were something a little less, not quite an equal, one of the lesser sex. Paul calls Phoebe the Greek word for brother, and puts a feminine ending on it. It could best be translated into English as brotheress. This term means that Phoebe, as deaconess is really one of the guys, an equal, a good friend, on the same footing as any male church person.

The true Paul also gives us an interpretation of the Adam and Eve story in Romans 5:12-21. Keep in mind that Paul is not the author of what seems to be a conflicting interpretation of Adam and Eve in I Timothy 2:13-15. Paul was a Jew who had studied Hebrew law, and he knew all the teachings of the rabbis and their interpretations on Adam and Eve. He probably knew the different versions of the story and was cognizant of the fact that two famous rabbis had taken all the blame for whatever went wrong in Eden, off the man, and laid it all on the woman.8 According to these rabbis, woman was evil, a tempting prostitute, little better than an animal. Possibly these rabbis were the offspring of "good Jewish mothers" who pushed their sons into the elite profession which in their day was the rabbinate. The men probably subconsciously resented the push given by these particular women, and their resentment grew into a disregard for all women. The actions of some women, affect some men very adversely.

But Paul wasn't like those particular rabbis. He had many female friends whom he respected. He also had a physical problem, which may have been epilepsy, and he may never have married because he didn't want to inflict the care for his problem on another.

Knowing that Paul was cognizant of certain unkind condemnations of Eve that were current in Jewish teaching, we can only admire his gentlemanliness in Romans 5, where he puts the responsibility for Adam's


 

actions squarely on Adam. He uses Adam to represent humanity, either male or female, who missed the mark. Thus ha adam's try at community, showed how humankind fared when wrestling with his environment without a clear vision of God. Consequently, to help humankind, God sent the law through Moses to give a clearer picture to humankind of the behavior that would help them to live successfully in community (Romans 5:13, 14a). This was still not enough, for human beings lived in selfishness. They obeyed the law for their own good, but were not too concerned with how the law affected their neighbor. Even today we are like that with our laws. As long as our laws enable us to maintain our property and our well being, we don't worry too much about how these same laws affect the jobless in Harlem.

Paul points out that the law wasn't being successful, so that God gave us the final help towards life and loving community; God sent us Jesus as the man and Messiah who will help us to have true life and to live in loving community with one another. Jesus Christ gives us the opportunity of being put right with God (Romans 5:17). Paul is very respectful of ha adam. He says that this human prefigured the one to come (5:14c). This first ancestor is a person who is accepting responsibility to form a loving community, a person who desires to search out the purpose of life and the wisdom of God. Ha adam broke no societal laws because there were no laws to break, but ha adam was unsuccessful in bringing total loving community on the earth. Moses pointed in the right direction, but his law also failed to bring the millennium. Law can't bring total love and justice, as there is no law that can change hearts.

Jesus came with the message from God on how to change hearts and how to transform the earth into a loving community. Paul feels that Christ was successful (Romans 5:21), but although the world now has the message, the key that unlocks the door, how many of us turn the key in the lock and go through the door?

6.8 Pseudo-Paul on The Garden

Paul writing about 57 AD in Romans 5:12-21, says ha adam (or humanity, both male and female) sinned or missed the mark. He understood the proper nuances of the name Adam. A disciple of Paul wrote a letter of instruction for the early church about 125 AD.9 This disciple, known as Pseudo-Paul, blames the sin on Eve (I Timothy 2:14). Both Paul and his disciple do not seem to realize that the concept of sin didn't get a foothold in Hebrew culture until the return of the tribes from Babylon. They both were speaking to the needs of the culture of their separate times. Paul blamed the whole thing on ha adam, or humanity in general. His disciple blamed the whole thing on Eve, because in his culture, two or three generations after Paul, when the


 

early church was in its growing pains, over-enthusiastic female leadership tending towards gnosticism, was in danger of destroying the credibility of the church. In a patriarchal society male converts would be very edgy about coming into a female-run church with mystical ideas. In the year 125 AD the Holy Spirit found it efficacious to calm down the women, for the sake of the survival of the church in the Graeco-Roman culture. As the carrier of God's message across the centuries, the church had to be a viable institution, accepted by a male dominated society.

I Timothy 2:8-15 starts off rather reasonably. I shall quote it, putting my comments in parenthesis. Verse 8: "In every church service I want the men to pray, men who are dedicated to God and can lift up their hands in prayer without anger or argument." (Obviously, the men of Pseudo-Paul's day tended to be argumentative, just as we find both men and women today who find it difficult to pray without first discussing heatedly as to what would be the best solution to a difficult situation.) Verse 9: "I also want the women to be modest and sensible about their clothes and to dress properly, not with fancy hairstyles or with gold ornaments or pearls or expensive dresses," Verse 10: "but with good deeds, as is proper for women who claim to be religious." (This is a reasonable request.) Verse 11: "Women should learn in silence and all humility." (Both men and women should listen politely to teachers who are instructing them, but for proper learning, there should be a question period for feedback, so that the teacher can see if the student understood the message.) Verse12: "I do not allow them to teach or have authority over men; they must keep quiet." (This is a low blow, but we must assent that women should not have authority over mature men, any more than men should have authority over mature women. The author must have a reason for his emphatic remark, which must have to do with some special problem in the church of his day. He next strives to back up his remark with what some of the people in his culture might accept as sound theology.) Verse 13: "For Adam was created first, and then Eve." (For his present purposes, he chooses to ignore the side-by-side equality of the humans in the Adam and Eve story, and to emphasize his perspective of the time element. He evidently sees himself that the time element is a rather flimsy argument, because he makes a second try.) Verse 14: "And it was not Adam who was deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and broke God's law." (Because of the problems in his particular church, the author is taking a minor rabbinical thread, and hoping that his fellow church members will agree with his reasoning.) Verse 15: "But a woman will be saved through having children, if she perseveres in faith and love and holiness, with modesty." (A man may also attain salvation by raising,


 

loving, and agonizing over his children.)

It is easy to see that the author of I Timothy had some sort of a problem in his community that required tact and a bit of gentle maneuvering. He probably was convinced that in his particular situation, he was guiltless, and that the woman was working under unChristian and heretical misconceptions. He wanted to encourage this militant woman to be less obvious, as he felt she was somehow deceived.

How are these anti-feminine sentiments of I Timothy to be interpreted by us today? Cultures away from the time of the writing of the I Timothy passage, many of us are bound by the same assumptions as Pseudo-Paul. The unthinking majority assumes the superiority of the male, which was not the stance of Paul, and more importantly, not that of Jesus! Perhaps even Pseudo-Paul is not denying the equality of the female, but is merely striving to maintain a semblance of order in his church. We of today's church are usually not confronted by problems of order. We of today's church are being asked by Jesus to form loving community, to care for the elderly, both male and female, to comfort those men and women wounded by divorce. We are called to restructure society in order to eliminate the need for prostitution, abortion, poverty, drug abuse, and imprisonment.

The message of the Adam and Eve story of the Bible is not that we should concentrate on a policy of discrimination against women and keep them silent and pregnant. The message is that women are equally responsible for the salvation of the earth. The message of Pseudo-Paul may be a plea to have all this restructuring of society done in an orderly fashion.

6.9 God-inspired Messages

This slightly anti-feminine passage of Pseudo-Paul in God's inspired word brings us back to our problem of hermeneutics and biblical interpretation. The first question we have to ask ourselves is whether we have an authentic translation. If that is the case, the second question concerns whether or not we are interpreting the culture of the times correctly. A third question we might ask ourselves is whether it is necessary to obey every injunction given by every God-inspired prophet that is set down in God's word. It seems that God enables us to choose what are the best methods for bringing us closer to loving community. Abraham gave us the rite of circumcision, and Moses is credited with food regulations. Both these religious contributions assisted the people of their days to form more workable communities. Paul allows the Gentiles to dismiss both these burdens. New times and seasons bring new insights from the Holy Spirit that go beyond the constrictions placed there by earlier ages. If God's dream for the human race, is loving community, it seems reasonable that better means of achieving this, would be revealed to


 

people by a loving God as time passed on and as people were able to accept the changes involved.

Jesus, understanding the totality of God's message, spoke to us about the Holy Spirit. He told us that he would not leave us as orphans (John 14:18), but would send his Spirit to tell us what we needed to know to be just, righteous, and whole individuals. In this age we are blessed with a flood of communications on how to live God-fearing lives. We have to decide whom we are going to believe; we want to know who is speaking with God's Spirit, and who is speaking on his own.

I should like to start off with a debatable assumption; that every person in any age who out of a sincere heart asks for God's wisdom on a subject, will be given as much wisdom as that particular human creation can hold. This is because although we are all created from the dust of earth, we each contain a spark of God's Spirit as our birthright. However, God can work only with what we are and have. God must speak in each individual's language and culture. God gave to Moses the best that was available for building a successful community in that day. I don't think that anyone would deny that Moses was a God-inspired man. Paul, also was God-inspired, and led the people of his day towards loving community. In our day there are many God-inspired people giving us advice that comes from sincere hearts. According to their different upbringings and culture, they may give conflicting messages. However, if they will dialogue with each other, what will come out of all these varying opinions will be the formation of loving community that is closer to God's designs than anything we have yet formulated. For optimum community we must keep open to one another's opinions and respect one another's differences, in love.

The ancient Hebrews, when confronted with the problem of which prophet was the true prophet, let time be the test. If the prophesies he made came true, that prophet became the one who was truly inspired. In the meantime, the true prophet may have been stoned to death, because someone disagreed with his theology or because he spoke against the accepted societal norms of the time. Jeremiah predicted the length of the Babylonian exile, so he was considered a major prophet. This does not mean that every word that Jeremiah spoke, was absolutely true for all time.

As we are human beings, none of us can speak the absolutely final word on any subject. If I say, "It is raining," I have made a true statement for a particular time and place, but my statement is certainly not true for all times and all places. People living in the Sahara would not consider me a true forecaster of events. Likewise my theology is restricted to a very small area of the earth. Perhaps it is true in my church for the year 1998, or


 

perhaps it only holds true in my home, or perhaps it is only effective in myself for a particular day.

So it is with others:— their inspiration comes from a particular time, place, and individual. The God in them strives to communicate with the God in us, and, together, in love, we will find some common meeting ground. We communicate with others whose lives cross our paths. We read their ideas in books. We see them in action in our world. All this information is assimilated into our quest for knowledge of God and enables God to speak in us more effectively.

For those whose life spans do not coincide with ours, we can go back in time by reading the stories they have left behind. Our communication with them is hampered by the barriers of language and culture. We cannot hope to understand the fears and problems of other days, the raids of the mountain men down onto the fertile plains, the Bubonic plague accepted as the design of God, the enslavement of those defeated in battle. The language in which they set down their theologies is communicated by inspired translators, but, again, these translators are imperfect individuals. They are doing the most inspired job they are capable of, but they cannot possibly know all the varied meanings that a given word or phrase can have. Biblical critical scholars have enlightened us with many new interpretations for certain passages that had been incorrectly understood by earlier researchers, but there is still much study to be done.

An interesting example of misinterpretation is Exodus 34:29 which describes Moses as having a horned face after talking on the mountain with God. After famous paintings dramatized Moses' horns on the memory of humankind, fresh translation brought to light that the horns described the radiance of Moses' face, rather than an animal appendage. We should view productions of other famous artists keeping in mind that they are not the final word in theology. We must realize that when we view Michelangelo's grandfatherly type God creating a male humankind on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, that this representation of God is merely an artist's notion, like the feminine version on this page. Neither one is to be engraved on our minds as a truth for all times. Similarly, not many of us have seen an angel, but artists are willing to fancifully portray these messengers of God.

Thus we see that the marvelous tool that is the Bible can occasionally benefit from a cleaning off of the collected dust of the centuries. Reinterpretation of difficult biblical passages is still going on. Sometimes different groups of scholarly translators will come up with varying interpretations of the Bible that serve different aspects of their theology. An example


 

of slightly conflicting meanings, can be seen if we turn to The Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 12 and 13. The Jerusalem Bible translates this passage as: "But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the name of him who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself."

A slightly different emphasis is found in The Revised Standard Version of the United Bible Societies: "But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."

The most prominent difference in translation occurs in the phrases "who was born" and "who were born." The "was born" phrase refers back to Jesus; the "were born" refers to all of us as children of God. Other biblical versions display their own choice of emphasis. Having examined the Greek language myself, I can understand the dilemma of the translators. One statement cannot be given preference over the other. In order to harmonize these two particular choices, the translators would have to gather in loving consensus and ask the Spirit to give them the best possible solution.

This example from John 1:12-13 has been given to illustrate that there are many places where God's inspired word is hampered by the humanness of interpreters. We have to accept that there are imperfections, as God's writing instruments— namely, human beings— are imperfect.

We must also accept that we are remarkable instruments for God's use, for we can hear the Spirit speaking in our hearts, we can tell this inspired message to others, we can accept God's word from the translations of others, and we can pray together to the Holy Spirit and receive from a bountiful God that message which is best for our time and our culture. God loves us, and gives us marvelous abilities. As we pursue our non-patriarchal investigation of the Bible, we must keep in mind both our abilities and our imperfections.

NOTES

1 Sharon MacIsaac, Freud and Original Sin (New York: Paulist, 1974), p. 103 ff.

2 Jean Luis Segundo, The Liberation of Theology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1979) p. 35.

3 Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harpur & Row, 1965).

4 Cypser paraphrase.

5 George Forell, Christian Social Teachings (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1966), p. 71, Augustine's Enchiridion, Chapters 23-26.

6 The translation of the Hebrew word in Genesis 3:1, is wisest rather than subtle or clever.

7 Norman Perrin, The New Testament (New York: Harcourt Brace Jova., 1974), p. 7.

8 Maurice Harris, Hebraic Literature (New York: Tudor Publishing Co., 1936), pp. 23-25.

9 Norman Perrin, loc.cit., p. 7.


 

Chapter VII: A GOD WHO SEES

7.1 God Sees Women

Men would certainly resent it, if they were told that the only thing they were good for was to produce women, through the restricted use of their sperm (on the order of male bees fertilizing the queen bee). Furthermore, if men proved to be infertile, they would be told that they were valueless, because it would be common knowledge that men didn't have the proper type minds to study or to write or to theologize or to do anything intellectually stimulating. We know that this hypothetical situation would never exist, because men wouldn't let it exist. Why is it that the opposite situation has been allowed to exist when it, too, doesn't stand up to the test of reality? Why do women submit to being the victim of such erroneous beliefs? Women are taught to be victims by their society.1 They are rewarded for being passive, pretty, productive of sons, and nurturing of others. They are taught to make others happy at the expense of themselves, which may not necessarily be a Christian attitude. Christians are called to be doorways, not doormats.

Do all the women in the Old Testament fit in with this miserable wormlike sub-set of humanity, dragging their pregnant bellies on the ground? Not all biblical females were hampered with such low self esteem. Eve of the Garden story as Mother of all the living, had a prominent place in Jewish folklore. Noah's wife is described in the Book of Enoch as rather assertive. Abraham, as choice patriarch, has several matriarchs associated with him. One of them is Hagar, the Mother of the Arabs. Of course, another is Sarah. The woman, Keturah is somehow related to Abraham. Could she be his daughter? The descendents of Keturah and Hagar are not Jewish, but they are also descendents of Abraham. The true Jew traces his ancestry from Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. Other tribes have their own particular claims on patriarch Abraham.

Hagar was the mother of Ishmael whose name is first mentioned in Genesis 16:11. Ishmael is very likely the first son of Abraham. Abraham may have had daughters, but names of daughters or their births, aren't usually mentioned. Abraham was officially married to Sarah. She was his primary wife, a female relative whom he had married. At some point Abraham farmed out his wife to King Abimelech (Genesis chapter 20). Also the pharaoh of Egypt found Sarah beautiful, so Abraham said to Sarah, "Tell them that you are my sister, not my wife, or they may kill me" (Genesis 12:10-20). The times were comfortable with the fact that one's wife could be distributed in this manner. We like to think of the patriarchs as near perfect


 

people. However, they were human just like us, and there were customs in their times that we can look back on and find rather wild.

It says in Genesis 16 that seeing Sarah couldn't have any children, she passed over her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham, so that Abraham might have a child by this handmaid. This sounds very noble of Sarah. In actuality, Abraham as the leader of that tribe, had certain rights to all the servant class in that tribe.2 Knowing what we know about human beings, we can imagine all sorts of gossip about things that could have gone on in that tribal cluster, and there probably were other subservient females in that group such as possibly Keturah, as well as Sarah's slave Hagar, who were subject to the desires of Abraham. The servant men probably fell in love with different ones of the servant women. These women may have been formally married to someone else, or they may not have been married at all. When the slave woman bore a child, perhaps she knew whose child it was, but could she prove it to the man? Today when women produce offspring, they often don't know who the father is. How could they be sure back in those days? The men weren't sure either. Numbers 5:11-30 deals with the possibly unfaithful wife. She was required to submit to a religiously-run psychological test. Abraham couldn't really be sure that the children of the servant women were his children. He could be more certain about the children of Sarah. No one would be likely to usurp the leader of the tribe with his primary wife, except in the case where Abraham farmed her out for his own safety.3

Let's look at this from Sarah's viewpoint for a moment. Why didn't she get pregnant? We assume that perhaps the women back then, didn't know anything about birth control and the time of ovulation or other facts relating to the best time to get pregnant or not to get pregnant. In the Jewish laws we find purity regulations for the male and the female (Leviticus 15). A woman is impure for two weeks after the start of her discharge. A man is impure for one week. This limits males to sex once a week, and forbids sex to women at what is often their most fertile time. These observations which probably predate Abraham, may have been encouraged into the early Mosaic code by women who had observed certain things about their bodies, and who didn't want to be continually pregnant. If there were a Jewish couple faithful to each other, who followed these purity regulations, they would be lucky to have sex twice a month. No wonder the patriarchs voted themselves the privilege of going to the servant women.

If Sarah obeyed these birth control type regulations, she was highly unlikely to get pregnant until she came up against the time of her menopause and had irregular periods. Then she couldn't practice this form of


 

birth control any longer, and lo and behold, she became pregnant. The writer of this portion of Genesis makes it sound like Sarah was desperate to get pregnant, and as this writer was a woman setting down a story for a patriarchal society, she was doubtless playing to her audience. According to the patriarchal scheme of things, it was very important to get pregnant, but perhaps the real women, like Sarah, didn't feel that way. No one has ever analyzed the clues we are given to Sarah's personality, or questioned how she really felt. Her lips were always fitted with the expected response, but perhaps she wasn't as anxious to be pregnant as everyone assumed she was. Why should she be, when she knew that her husband could have intercourse with any of the servant women of the tribe, and have offspring by them? Why should she be concerned at Abraham's lament over a lack of legitimate progeny, when she may have known that he had many offspring?

All the descendants of Abraham that are mentioned are male children. At any point in her life, Sarah may have had a female child, and it would not have been noted in the genealogical information. We do not really know the exact relationship of the female Keturah, to the patriarch Abraham, but her descendants are his descendants (Genesis 25:1).

The tradition carries more information about Hagar. She was an Egyptian slave girl (Genesis 16:1), perhaps one of the slaves mentioned as being given to Abraham by the pharaoh (Genesis 12:16). We do not know if her original country was Egypt, or if she had been purloined by the Egyptians from a more distant homeland. She obviously had had a rough childhood, but was still feisty enough to give her mistress a hard time (Genesis 16:4).

Abraham, as a religious patriarch, is described as having conversations with God (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15; Genesis 17). Sarah was around during one of the conversations (Genesis 18:1-15), and Isaac was there to verify another when Abraham attempted to sacrifice his first born son, a common practice in that time (Genesis 22:11-17). (The Muslims claim Ishmael as witness to this would-be sacrifice scene.) We unhesitatingly accept the fact that patriarchs are expected to have communications from God.

Somehow, we do not expect that women should have this same type of communication, yet Hagar, too, is given prominence as a recipient of a theophany although she is only a female slave. When she ran away from her mistress Sarah, the angel of the Lord met her at a spring and advised her to return to her slavery. She is promised, like Abraham, so many descendants that no one will be able to count them (Genesis 16:10). She is amazed that God has spoken to her, and calls this God, "A God Who Sees" (Genesis 16:13). In this supposedly patriarchal society we are given a God


 

who is interested in the welfare of a lowly slave woman. It makes you suspect that this God Who Sees Women and who is concerned with women, stands for the equality of women.

Hagar was sent away again and had a second theophany (Genesis 21:17). Ishmael was present at this vision. We are assured that God hears the cries of hungry children and of mothers lamenting over their children. God sees women and he sees how the male oriented societies have mistreated them by sending them into the wastelands of the world with short supplies and dependent children. God assures the woman of future possibilities. The single mothers of our society today can feel kinship with Hagar and put their hope in the future that God promises.

7.2 The Lord Has Seen My Trouble

Another female personality in the Bible that we often gloss over, because she is described as somehow ugly or deficient, is Leah. Jacob's parents, Rebekah and Isaac, didn't want him marrying foreign women as his brother Esau had done, so they sent him to Rebekah's male relative Laban. This man welcomed Jacob, took him into his home, and let him help with his household and property. Laban had two daughters, and I guess he had no sons, as none are mentioned. When Jacob came along, as he was a relative, he was in a privileged position to inherit, if he married one of the daughters. Both the young ladies thought it would be a good idea to marry him, as such a marriage would enable them to inherit their father's property. Jacob preferred the younger sister, Rachel. The Bible says that the older one just wasn't as shapely and beautiful (Genesis 29:17). Laban tricked his son-in-law and got him to marry the older daughter first. Actually this wasn't such a bad thing for Jacob, as patriarch, as the older daughter produced lots and lots of sons, whereas the younger may have gotten tripped up by following purity regulations, and was temporarily barren.

Leah was well aware that she was playing second fiddle to her sister Rachel. To live in this unloved and oppressive situation, must have been very difficult. She didn't get along too well with Rachel. She was usually pregnant, and it didn't seem to gain her husband's approval, as she kept hoping that it would. With her first son she had rejoiced, and named him Reuben, meaning "The Lord Has Seen My Trouble." God saw Leah's problems, and gave her the strength to raise six sons, and at least one daughter, Dinah (Genesis 30:21). When her sister Rachel died in childbirth, Leah took on the task of raising Rachel's second son Benjamin.

Leah evidently did a good job of consolidating all the brothers and promoting community in the whole tribe. Other tribal communities in the Near East rose into prominence and disappeared, particularly when they


 

were displaced into a foreign country. This group of tribal brothers went down to Egypt, raised children, had grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and 400 years later, there still was a tribal unity. Could it be that Leah, as remaining matriarch, supplied the faith in God and the consolidating spirit that kept the community together? One woman who has undergone oppression and thus achieved understanding can influence the lives of many to have great faith in God.

The advice given in many sections of the Book of Sirach, otherwise known as Ecclesiasticus, sounds like it might have come from a woman such as Leah. This book speaks with veneration of the elders and reverently sets down their wisdom. Chapter 3:12-14 sounds very motherly. Only a mother could advise her son to "support your father in his old age, and do not grieve him during his life. Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy." Only a mother would know how much she loved her son, telling him, "You will be like a son to the Most High, whose love for you will surpass your mother's." Leah and other women like her accepted their difficult situations in life and showed their love for those around them, thus building a unified tribe that carried the message of the One God.

Jesus as a man was able to transmit his message of love and forgiveness to the male dominated community. Leah as a woman transmitted her faith to her offspring. God saw this woman, Leah, and her problem of rejection by others, and God allowed her out of this rejection, to reach a fuller understanding of others. She could help her children, and through them, their children, to empathize with one another. She could encourage them not to reject, as she had been rejected. She could give them her faith that God sees women and men and their troubles, and that God helps.

7.3 Does God Hide God's Face?

Attempting to look at God and humanity from an impartial viewpoint, we might conclude that God sees women as equal to men, and that he loves women as much as he loves men. He gives fulfillment to women who serve him, in the same balance as he does to their male counterparts. Does he give us teachings in his inspired word, the Bible, that tell us that women have less potential for leading God-directed lives? Does it sometimes seem, when women are the topic of discussion in the Bible, that God is looking the other way? Perhaps it is only the individual reader who is looking in the wrong direction. We may find in some sections of the Bible that examples are given of gross mistreatment of women. We must decide for ourselves if these examples are to be applauded and followed, or if they are put there as horror stories to point out evils in society and to discourage imitation.

In Genesis 19 we are presented with the very casual treatment of two


 

women by their father Lot, who should have been loving and protecting them for all he was worth. Two men came to visit his city, and Lot invited them to partake of the hospitality of his home. All the men of the city rushed to Lot's house for the purpose of having sex with these male guests. To prevent this unseemly behavior, Lot offered his two virgin daughters to the crowd. Fortunately the two guests were angels, and could prevent this sacrifice of the daughters. Unfortunately they found Lot's city distasteful and destroyed it in the morning after sending Lot and his daughters off. A further poor situation is commented on, when Lot and the daughters relate sexually and both the daughters produce offspring by their father.

Lot's daughters got off pretty easily, compared to the woman told about in Judges 19. She was the concubine of a Levite who was traveling to his home, passing through the territory of the Benjaminites. They were invited to partake of the hospitality of an old man in the city of Gibeah. Again sexual perverts from the town surrounded the house asking for the Levite to join in their indecencies. He sent out his concubine, and she was raped all night, and found dead in the morning. The Levite was incensed that the Benjaminites were so inhospitable to him. He didn't seem to care about his wife. She was merely the property that was mistreated. He dismembered her body and sent it to the other tribes of Israel as a sign that the tribe of Benjamin had flaunted the male hospitality code. In this questionable cause, the other tribes rallied, and there was an inter-tribal war, not because a woman died of mistreatment, but because several townspeople of Gibeah were inhospitable to a male traveler.

The material in the Bible is given to us for reflective thought, and if we are open to God's loving Spirit, we will be given new insights. There are many interesting behavioral considerations behind these two stories. There was no doubt a legendary hero called Lot who miraculously escaped from a natural disaster. There was probably also a Levite who dramatically cut up his concubine. Other flourishes on these stories are added to commend or discount social customs, and to lead us into further discussion of certain virtues or problems. If either one of these stories is being set down by a woman, in each case the purpose may be to bring into question the violent mistreatment of women in Israeli society.

Surely, whoever set down these tales in Genesis and Judges was questioning, and not approving, the raping and dismemberment of a person, and the handing over of one's own daughters, in the case of Lot, to a mob. However, these authors saw the performance of similar atrocities against women in the cultures of their day. These stories are a comment on the evils of the times. They are inspiring us to ask of ourselves, "Which is the


 

least desirable, the debasement of women, contempt of the hospitality code, or promiscuous homosexuality?" Elsewhere in the Bible we are given a partial answer by the information that Israel's crimes have outdone the crimes of Sodom (Lamentations 4:6). Could this be interpreted as saying that mistreatment of one's neighbor (male or female) is worse than homosexuality? In the New Testament Jesus says that the type of sin committed by the Sodomites will be treated more leniently than the wrong done by those who refuse to believe in his message of love (Matthew 11:24).

As we relate these stories to our time, we observe that we still have the same problems, the same questions, and the same patriarchal attitudes. It would be deflating to admit that we still have no solutions, in the face of abundant advice from modern psychiatry and more importantly, the loving wisdom we have in the example of Jesus. Possible suggestions for a better scenario on these matters might be to enhance women's self esteem, so that they don't feel any sort of subconscious need to become a victim;4 and to encourage homosexuals to serve those less fortunate or to bring up the unwanted children of others.5 The debasement of women in these stories is not a case of "God doesn't see." It's a case of persons looking at surface problems, pointing fingers at others, refusing to see the root causes in themselves, and denying responsibility for resolving situations, even as we do today.

There was much room for improvement in early Israeli society, but the lot of the common concubine was absurd. Some of the royalty were treated with equal disdain. If a king's wife asserted herself and took on some of the duties of ruling with her husband, she was blamed for all the misfortunes that occurred in the land. Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab (I Kings 16:31) and daughter of the king of Sidon, may have been a great sinner, as she is credited with killing prophets (I Kings 18:4) and was the opponent of Elijah. She also may have been a wise ruler who had different theological ideas than the Israeli priestly class (but Jesus did, too). Her name was sufficiently defamed by male historians, but she must have been a powerful personality as a woman, to get that name inserted in the Book of Kings. The name Jezebel is not really her name, but an insulting name given her by disapproving contemporaries. The poor woman ended up totally debased, as was typical of most of the women in her country. She was thrown from an upstairs window and eaten by dogs in the street below, so that when they came to bury her, she was totally unrecognizable (II Kings 9:30-37). The image that is projected on to her in the Book of Kings, may be, in like manner, totally unrecognizable. Was there any male ruler that suffered a like fate? We are given these examples, not necessarily to warn


 

us about evil queens and false gods, but to allow us to see how ancient Israeli society treated women. With this knowledge we can introspect our own time, see where there is room for improvement, and structure for ourselves a more loving community.

Another Jewish queen noted in the Old Testament, was Michal. She must have been very respectable, as no one says anything bad about her character. Any story about a woman in the patriarchally oriented Bible has to be uncovered very carefully. Most of the biblical heroes are men. Women are often by-passed as if they weren't there, so when the Bible tells us about a woman, we should sit up and take notice.

In the days of the judges who ruled over Israel, women didn't count for much, as described in the story of the Levite and his concubine. An outstanding woman might be given respect, but when the kingdom of Israel was established and Jewish male leaders appropriated the customs of Near East potentates, women became harem property. A joyful celebration is described in II Samuel 6:14-23 in which David the King thanks God for victory, dancing with only a linen cloth about his waist. We have nudists today who look back at this rejoicing of David as a great way to celebrate. We have people who think that God gave us beautiful bodies, and that we should, in thanksgiving, display them to each other, on topless and bottomless beaches. We also have "streakers," but the majority in our society are taught to find such behavior offensive. What does the Lord say about David's dancing? What does the Bible say through the mouth of David's wife Michal? The Bible says, "Shame on you!" to David.

Michal is the daughter of Saul, the previous king, and a very highly honored wife among David's many wives. David paid a heavy price to marry Michal. He had to give her father Saul one hundred Philistine foreskins (II Samuel 3:14). As products of our society today, we would certainly question the morals, if not the sanity of a man who killed one hundred other men for their penises, and who collected wives by the dozen. We can sense the heaviness of heart of the historian who set down these facts, as she ends the story of the celebration dance by telling us that David paid back Michal for her criticism by never having intercourse with her, so she could not get pregnant. As having a child was the supposed fulfillment for women of that day, David had really fixed her. She could never produce an heir to the throne. As a king's wife she had to remain in the harem, and not be available for any new husband. As a woman, I feel excessive sympathy for Michal, and anger at laws and social customs that allow kings and men to wound others and get away with it. What does the Holy Spirit do about David's misbehavior? She sends the prophet Nathan.


 

Nathan's message to David at this point seems to have nothing to do with David's treatment of Michal. On close reading, there is a clue. The prophecy concerns building a house for the Lord's worship. In the prophecy it is mentioned that the Lord withdrew his support from Saul and from Saul's offspring, and that the Lord will support David and David's offspring. If we are going to consider Michal as capable of producing offspring of Saul, as well as of her husband David, it becomes clear that David and Michal will have no common offspring as God disapproves of Saul. What is a sad situation for Michal, becomes a part of a wonderful situation for all humanity, the God-supported kingdom that will last forever. We can nonchalantly shrug our shoulders about Michal and say, "It's all in God's will." We have to take the bitter with the better, and Michal was probably much better off living her celibate life in the harem. Knowing about the political life of the times, if she had had a son, he doubtless would have been killed by one of his aspiring-to-the-throne brothers, as the offspring of Saul and David would have been a logical political compromise choice for David's successor. But God saw Michal and her problems. God desired her fulfillment as a woman. We must not shrug her off so lightly. Her opinion must have been rather highly regarded at the time, or the biblical author wouldn't have included her name in the history of the people of God. She was a powerful woman politically. She aided her husband David to escape from her murderous father Saul. David's kingship may well have been based on the fact that he was married to the king's daughter. Having ridden to power on her skirts, he could not very well throw her out without an uproar from the populace, so he kept her in his harem.

Michal's problems had political roots, but her criticism of the dancing David was directed at his morals. It is difficult to criticize the morals of a king, yet there are some situations that cannot be ignored. When David had his affair with Bathsheba, the Holy Spirit speaking through Nathan, and doubtless through others in the kingdom, insisted that the king reconsider his actions. In this second prophecy by Nathan the Holy Spirit condemned David for mistreatment of another man, mainly through robbery, and for showing contempt for the Lord. Not much is said about Bathsheba. She is a piece of property (II Samuel 11 and 12). The Bible tells us the facts of the story and leaves us to contemplate the wrongs done and the possible ways to restructure society in order to obtain improved community.

Even today some societies are more sexist than others. Recognizing the wrongs done to human beings by this imbalance, we seek means to correct this situation. In those regimes that are repressive of their citizens, we find that the women are more held down than the men. Women are


 

easier to protect and to control if they are kept subserviently at home and put under the authority of their husbands as well as the authority of the state. During the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, what had been a flowering of women's rights in that geographical area was drastically curtailed. Women were afraid and thus were willing to be over protected, but fear is not a good foundation on which to build cooperative community.

Both women and men are responsible for making societies the way they are. If both men and women take courage from the Christian message of love, and behave in unison with truly Christian values, the human process runs more smoothly. For optimum harmony we should treat men and women with Christian equality. Perhaps the message that the Holy Spirit is trying to get through to us in the Bible, is that we should cast aside the old models which were destructive of certain individuals in the society, and we should use the creativity God has given us to envision new models of cooperative community, where men and women support and affirm one another.

7.4 Other Historical Roles Of Women

What does the Bible really say about women? Are they forever to be considered as chattel, like Lot's daughters, or shall we consider that example of the treatment of women, as a negative approach, a thing to shun? The position of women in biblical times is described realistically in the manner in which women were held in that particular time and culture. Some places and times were better for women than others. Often, if the general culture of a people were on a high level, women would be given freedom and prominence. If times were hard, and everyone had to grub in the dirt to stay alive, women would be out there grubbing, so that their children might eat.

During the fifth dynasty in Egypt (about 2200 BC) women had status and could own property. They were often politically prominent in the advanced civilization around Mari on the northern Euphrates (1950-1700 BC) and were religious specialists in the worship of the early Akkadians of Mesopotamia (2360-2180 BC). Due to the sexist construction of the Hebrew language, it is difficult to tell whether any important women are mentioned at the time of Abraham. We know that Sarah is an attractive and commanding woman, as the language explicitly refers to her as a wife. Sarah was considered a princess, obviously qualified to be the wife of a king, according to the story about the pharaoh taking her into his harem (Genesis 12:10-20). Kings had their harems, and some also had a principal wife who was considered to be the queen of the territory. Other small kingdoms in the Near East even had women rulers! We read in the Bible about the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon (I Kings 10:1). Shortly before the time of Christ, we see the stormy rule of the descendent of Ptolemy with


 

the male name of Cleopatra (meaning chosen father). Other Egyptian queens bore this name as a reminder to the people that they were the equal of any male ruler, and were to be respected as the offspring of the sun god. An earlier queen of Egypt, Hatshepsut, is shown wearing the emblem of male authority; her statue is adorned with a beard!

There is an incident in Genesis 14 that may refer to a woman ruler at the time of Abraham. All the kings of the city states in the area had lined up in battle array, and Abraham was drawn into the fray because his relative Lot was abducted by one of the warring groups. When Abraham was informed of this calamity, he gathered his forces and rescued his relative from the offending group of warriors. This made him an ally of the opposing forces, and he wisely split the spoils with them.

The story goes on to relate that another ruler called Melchizedek came to congratulate Abraham. Of course, the word for ruler is a male word, and all pronouns for this ruler, if they are set down in the script at all, will be translated as he. The Jewish philosopher Philo and rabbinical lore ask questions about this ruling person. One question wonders why the name Melchizedek isn't mentioned in any genealogies. One answer might be that if she were a woman, her name wasn't likely to be found in the genealogies.

A second question asks why this ruler didn't go out to do battle with all the other rulers. Again, if this ruler were a woman, she would not be welcome in the battle area. If this woman ruler were also official priestess for the people of her city state, it would be appropriate for her to bless the returning victor, so as to maintain good relations with the conquering powers. All of these possibilities of feminine leadership would be well hidden in the Hebrew words for ruler and priest which are of male gender. The name of this individual is given as Melchizedek which means righteous ruler. The city state ruled over by this person was Salem which means peace, and was the location of the latter day city of Jerusalem.

At this time in history, there may have been women rulers and women religious leaders, and historians would not have recorded their existence. The doings of queens usually were not as bloody and property shaping as the doings of kings. Although this monarch doesn't go off to war with all the other kings, the in-group of "good-old-boys" don't seem to feel resentment. This behavior would only be tolerated by the winning kings if the monarch were a courteous and diplomatic female.

In one account Jewish folk lore explains the Melchizedek story as the result of Abraham finding a hairy primitive man in a cave in the area of Salem. Abraham converts this individual to worship of the one true God.


 

This story is recorded in the form of a painting in a monastery in the area. The painting shows Abraham shearing the hair off Melchizedek. I think it is much more likely that Melchizedek was a woman than that she was a man in need of a barber.

Speculation about Melchizedek continued through Jewish history (Psalm 110:4), and into the Essene community. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews compares the priesthood of Jesus with that of Melchizedek. Recognizing the lack of genealogy of Melchizedek, as comparable to the lack of priestly line of Jesus, the author assigns God as Jesus' father (Hebrews 5:5). As the name Melchizedek stands for the righteous and peaceful ruler, Jesus is acclaimed to be this type of ruler, forever (Hebrews 5:6). If we wish to theologically remember that we also are priests, prophets, and rulers, as the associates of Jesus, it is somehow fitting that we consider the ruler Melchizedek as either a man or a woman, and of unknown ancestry.

There may have been women rulers in the Near East in the days of Abraham, yet time passed and times changed. Life was harder. Coming up from Egypt with the tribes, women lost a lot of the rights they had gained, and only the very unusual women stand out from the general run who are sexy, seducing, and only important because of their appearance. The stand-outs are Miriam the Prophetess, Deborah the Judge, the Wise Woman of Tekoa (II Samuel 14:1-24), the Wise Woman of Abel (II Samuel 20:16-22), and the wise woman who made pronouncements on the rediscovered Book of The Law in II Kings 22:14-20. None of these are mentioned for their beauty. Jewish culture of the time is correspondingly male chauvinist. Women are property. They cannot witness. How helpless is Susanna (Daniel 13), before the assault of the two elders!

In spite of the low esteem accorded to women, certain women had to be noticed for their intelligence and leadership ability. In the Jewish culture rabbis were instructed not to teach their daughters the Torah, because the daughters were supposed to be so light minded.6 Yet there were exceptions to this rule. As an example, Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradion had a daughter Beruriah (Valerie) in the second century, who confounded the other rabbis with her wisdom, and had her words set down for posterity, with the best of them.

As the Greek and Roman cultures gained a foothold in Palestine, the role of women began to look up. Perhaps we owe some of this freedom to women of the ruling class such as Cleopatra who was born about 69 BC. One able human being can often effect dramatic changes in the world. In Palestine in the first century BC, Roman women could partake with men at


 

banquets, where they reclined on couches as the men did.7 The Jewish housewife whose husband had dealings with the Romans, would feel socially obligated to take the first place in her dining room, where Romans were being entertained. Women could go where they wished, although they were still non-legal entities, unqualified as witnesses. Saul didn't persecute only male Christians; he persecuted both men and women (Acts 8:3; 22:4-5). The importance of women is acknowledged, as they can be thrown to the lions in the Colosseum, as well as the men.

Just the fact that a successor of Paul found it necessary to subdue women in I Timothy, shows that "women's lib" was on the way. Some women in positions of power can be just as obnoxious as some men in those same positions. If you are the man who wants to be in that position, a person of the "lesser" sex telling you off, can be terribly humiliating. Men don't like other men telling them what they say is incorrect. If criticism is coming from a woman, it is doubly hard to take.

We have extreme examples of terrible results of criticism coming from a woman. Denial of freedom to a child by either parent can have disastrous effects. Some mothers feel that their sons must be a "credit" to them. They dress them up in fancy clothes which must be kept tidy. They bind them tightly with the proper words to say and correct actions to do. They make model "little men" out of them. The "little man" not understanding the motives behind this oppression, may grow up resenting his enchainment to this model of perfection. He may burst these parental bonds even to the extent of murdering another human being whom he subconsciously feels has been given more freedom. Why did Cain kill Abel? Could the parents have given the impression that Abel's behavior was more proper? Cain certainly felt that God, as seen in parental authority, preferred the behavior of his brother.

If we looked at the characters in biblical history and analyzed them from a psychiatric viewpoint, we might gain a greater understanding of the true message of the Bible. What was given as a theological example for people to ponder in biblical times, may shed new light on God's purposes for humanity when observed with the psychological tools of today. As we have all sorts of men and women and cultures ranging through the pages of the Bible and contributing to its content, we also get a rainbow of variation in the description of the position of women. This could have tremendous possibilities for enlarging our understanding about the treatment of women, and even increase our understanding of the problems connected with the treatment of men by women. But God's total message in the Bible does not change much under microscopic examination. God's message for and to


 

and about women in the Bible, is the same as the message for and to and about men. God loves us all. All humanity is to love and forgive. All humanity is to live in loving community with one another, no matter what cultural aspects or chauvinistic viewpoints cloud the scene.

7.5 A Bitter Blow

We cannot leave our discussion of women in the Old Testament without setting down the tragedy related in Ezra 10 and Nehemiah 13. In this horrendous incident, wives were thrown out of the community, along with their children. Nowhere does the author of Nehemiah and Ezra say that this is a good thing. The situation developed during the return from the Babylonian Exile.

The Jews had faced hardship in their exile to Babylon, and their determination and faith had helped them to change their misfortune into an acceptable existence; so acceptable than when Cyrus sent out an edict inviting them to rebuild their temple, many Jews preferred Babylon and the comforts of their new home. They had no desire to be again rooted up, and to undergo privation. Only the more enthusiastic and religiously oriented took up the challenge, and it was difficult to find enough Levites who were willing to go back to basics. The home synagogues were the "in" thing. The scribes and Levites could function in the synagogue environment and maintain their elite status. They must have asked themselves, "Do we really need Jerusalem in order to worship God?" Abraham had emphasized the land; Moses had led them to it; David had proclaimed Jerusalem as God's favored city. Those priests and Levites in Babylon feeling the presence of God with them in their new environment, must have wondered if Jerusalem were to be taken figuratively or literally, even as some of us wonder about Jerusalem today.

Back in the land of Judea, there were Jews who had never made the exile, the poorer farmers, the landless, and the politically unimportant. Two generations after the deportation to Babylon, they considered themselves the residents of the land, and they, too, worshiped the God of the Jews. With their temple destroyed, they had built altars in the countryside for worship, so as not to offend Assyrian overlords. In their hearts they worshipped God to the best of their ability, in their adverse circumstances. They doubtless considered themselves the elect few, preserved from catastrophe because they had worshipped God correctly. It must have been an upset for them when a party of Babylonian exiles returned and said that they were the elect remnant chosen to rebuild the temple. It must have been even harder to take when this self-styled "elect remnant" told the God-worshiping people of the land that they were unclean and not fit to help in


 

the rebuilding of this temple. Some of the younger male returnees were open minded enough to marry the daughters of some of the people of the land or even of other land-dwellers who were non-Jews (Ezra 9). The leader of the returning exiles, Nehemiah, ordered punishment of each offending male who married in this fashion, and made those guilty take an oath to cease this practice (Nehemiah 13:25). A second leader, Ezra, was much stricter and had the women and children of these marriages sent away (Ezra 10:44). Names of men who were opposed to this disastrous proceeding are given in Ezra 10:15 as Jonathan son of Asahel, Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, Meshullam and Shabbethai, a Levite, so there were still men in the community who saw God as loving father rather than as authoritarian warrior. These men stood up to the unfeeling leadership, but the total community did not feel free or secure enough to listen to them.

The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah were not written by Ezra and Nehemiah, but by an historian, the Chronicler, who also wrote the Book of Chronicles.7 Could this author possibly be a woman? The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah both end with the story of the expulsion of the women. The author quotes Nehemiah as begging God to make a judgment on this matter and on Nehemiah's other authoritarian procedures. The author does not pass judgment, but leaves the judgment up to God (Nehemiah 13:14, 22).

Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, tells us that due to this incident, many Jews left off worshiping at the temple in Jerusalem, and built themselves a second temple at Mt. Gerizzim in Samaria.9 Joiada, the son of Eliashib the High Priest, was in line for the High Priestship in Jerusalem, but he had married the daughter of the local Samaritan governor and thus was out of favor with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:28). Joiada preferred to stay in his marriage, and become a priest in Samaria. Joiada may be the Chronicler, or his wife (called Nicosia in Josephus' writings) may have been the scribe, because we hear no more from the Chronicler after the expulsion of the women and children from the community.

Where the author leaves the judgment up to God, we also should leave the judgment of Ezra and Nehemiah. It may have been necessary for such a "cleansing" incident to take place in order for the struggling Jewish community to maintain its identity. If the Jews, through the presentation of Jesus, were to save the whole world, it may have been necessary for the Jewish community to have this purge of foreign practices and for these women and children to suffer.

NOTES

1 Anne Fauwell, America, Dec. 22, 1984, pp. 430, 431, in book review on "Sweet Suffering:


 

Woman As Victim" by Natalie Shainess.

2 John Bright, A History of Israel, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1972), p. 78.

3 It has been suggested that Abraham was infertile, and that Ishmael was the son of a male servant while Isaac was fathered by Abimelech or the Pharaoh.

4 Anne Fauwell, loc.cit.

5 The author of Genesis had to say "created male and female" so that they could reproduce. However, if two or more people of the same sex form a community for the purpose of furthering the human race, they could do a lot of good for the world. Take, for example, religious communities that are composed exclusively of one sex or the other.

6 M. H. Harris, Hebraic Literature (New York: Tudor Publishing Company, 1936), p. 101, Rabbi Eliezer.

7 Leonard Swidler, Biblical Affirmations of Women (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1979), p. 18.

8 Jacob Meyers, Ezra-Nehemiah (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Anchor, 1965), p. LI.

9 William Whiston, Works of Josephus Vol. II (Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1865), p. 251.


 

Chapter VIII: THE POSSIBILITY OF
THE GOSPEL OF LUCY

8.1 Authorship Customs In New Testament Times

Although most of us think of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as four men, three bearded, and one a beardless youth, it is fairly well accepted that we do not know the particular author to credit for any one of the gospels. Bible scholars tell us that the earliest New Testament composition, I Thessalonians, is written by Paul and is dated about 51 AD. The authorship customs of the times may be seen if we look at the thirteen letters in the New Testament attributed to Paul. It is generally agreed that seven of these letters are truly the work of the man Paul. These seven are I Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans, I and II Corinthians, Philippians, and Philemon. Three seem to be written by a man or woman follower or pupil (II Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians); this person is given the name Deutero-Paul. Three are written in the second century by an individual termed Pseudo-Paul by biblical scholars and these reflect the needs of an expanding church (I and II Timothy and Titus).1 Thus there are three separate authors claiming the right to the name of Paul. That the early church in compiling the canon seemed to regard all these letters as authorized by a one true Paul, makes us suspect that a man called Matthew may not have written The Gospel According to Matthew. The writing may well have been composed by a member of Matthew's community. In like manner, The Gospel According to John may be the work of two or three writers, a dominant author who was assisted or revised by group members of a later date.

Neither the church nor the society of the time considered it wrong for a follower of Paul to use the authority of Paul's name to set down sentiments that the writer thought that Paul may have had. In fact, the closing salutation that claims to be in Paul's own handwriting, may be the writer assuring his contemporary readers, with an accepted usage of his age, that the words he is setting down are to be digested as if they were the words of Paul himself. No deception may have been intended, and we can look back and see that the whole situation was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as these works which are not true Paul have all contributed much in the service of Christianity.

Being from a patriarchal culture, most of us immediately assume that all these stand-in authors were men. However, women were included as


 

followers of Jesus and of Paul, women's names are mentioned in the epistles, and women were present in the upper room to participate in the action taking place under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14). There is no reason to believe that the Spirit would refuse to use women authors if they were available.

Finding an educated woman in early Christian times was not as unlikely as one might at first suppose. The well-to-do families of the Roman Empire hired tutors for their sons, and if there were a daughter in the family, she might be allowed to sit in on the lessons. If there was any writing to be done, women who had this talent were glad to offer their services. Even in the time of Jerome (331-420), women were helping to translate the Old Testament into Latin. Of course the task was done under the name of Jerome. Similarly, in the nineteenth century, authoress Lucile Dupin had to write under the male name of George Sands in order to be published. Women could write and did write, but often had to do it under a male name or give credit to another individual, because of their lesser position in society.

Even today in a gathering that needs a secretary to write something down, the leader, who is usually a male, will choose a female to take the notes. After the meeting she will write up her notes and show them to the leader, who will read them through, make a few slight changes, and approve them. It is understood that the person who is leading the discussion can't take notes himself, as leading is a full time job, but he is expected to check over what is written up. Basically the document comes from the secretary, but it goes out to the public under the name of the chairperson, with his seal of approval. This custom of writing under a male name, goes back to time immemorial. Imagine how many women must have patiently chipped designs onto rocks to please a less patient helpmate!

8.2 The Holy Spirit As Maker Of Gospels

In order to get your attention, I should like to state that all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, may have been written by women. I want to approach this subject with this rather shocking possibility in mind, as no one has proved that any one of these four authors was definitely a man that could be located historically. We have grown accustomed to portrayals of them as male, but I would like to show that these pictures are unrealistic.

Tackling this problem gently, we might first suggest that the young man named John in our mental picture did not write the gospel as a young man. If John the Disciple wrote John's gospel, he may have done it in his old age. Of course we can say that it was the same man, young or old, who wrote it. Does it matter how you picture him? He was reporting what he


 

had seen, to his community, so that they could better remember Jesus. If he reported what he had seen and someone else wrote down what he said, would it have been any different? If no one wrote it down immediately, but a group of people cherished his words, and memorized them, and at some point in the future wrote down what was said and called them John's words, would the story have more or less depth? We cannot answer except to state again that all of this was overseen by the Holy Spirit, that these words are not right or wrong because they come from a male or a female, but they are the words put down by the choice of the Spirit, to assist humanity in its knowledge of the truth.

Certain people in the early centuries were adept at memorizing words. It was a necessary skill in an age when reproduction of documents was such an arduous task. Even today we have those who can repeat the words of God given to Muhammed, who have committed the whole Koran to memory. Disciples were obliged to know by heart the teachings of their rabbi. The disciples of Jesus were no exception. The parables, as a means to give the message of the teacher to any time and place, were given in a form that lent itself to memory storage. Much of the material in the gospels depends on this rabbi-disciple teaching method.

At some point in the life of the Christian community, someone recognized that it would be a good idea to set this material down, in case the community were broken up. Jesus had not made the immediate return that many of them had hoped for, the political situation in Palestine was formidable, and the outlying communities had felt the threat of persecution. Those whose minds held firmly to the oral tradition, were an endangered species. Their great need was for a person who could write. The whole gospel was present in the body of the community in oral form, as it had been given to them by their prime leader and his associates. The person who set this gospel information down did not necessarily give it a formal title, but everyone in the community knew that this material was all the accepted material that had been collected orally in the community about the person Jesus.

One theory says that in the community that was under the prime male leadership of Luke, this body of material came to be known as "The Gospel According to Luke." The title really meant "the gospel according to the information available in the community that originated under the leadership of Luke." Luke was probably not the secretary writer; Luke may not have been the originator of the information which the group had memorized; Luke may not even have been the editor or have put his seal of approval


 

on the work. He may have been dead before the work was completed. The only reason the authorship is assigned to Luke is that the book sprang from the community which at some point in time was under Luke's guidance.

This interpretation of the gospel authors leaves the field wide open for conjecture on just who was the final compiler of the material. It makes no difference who wrote the different gospels, in a church that treats all its members, male and female, with equal respect, but in a church that restricts women from full participation, it is important to draw the picture correctly. Therefore we should change our mental image of four men as gospel writers, to perhaps a picture of four communities with the Holy Spirit as dove, hovering over those four communities. Perhaps we should picture four people with question marks engraved on their bodies. Perhaps we should show more people than just four in our portrayal of gospel writers. Bible scholars tell us that from the style of the writing, the Gospel of John may have had at least three people setting down material, not to mention those others who transmitted the oral tradition. One thing remains constant in our picture, and that is the dove. The Holy Spirit is definitely the guiding light of the gospel material.

In seeing the Spirit working in our New Testament, we must keep in mind that the Spirit works differently through different people. The action of God's Spirit is confined by our individual personalities and by our unique cultures. God's wisdom knows this, and God chooses whom God wills, to be instruments for the enlightenment of others. In the four gospels we have four different interpretations of Jesus. These presentations complement one another. Each one of them is set down primarily by a distinct individual, who arrived at his inspiration through the consensus of a loving community. It does not matter if the person who set these things down is male or female, but to assist those of our day and age to remove their patriarchal spectacles and to see things from a less biased viewpoint, I should like to continue in my extreme position of stating that all of these authors were women. I shall make an attempt to prove this statement, and I hope to get concerned refutation, as nothing makes propositions more plausible, than open discussion.

8.3 Names As Clues In Gospel Stories

To gain a more complete understanding of gospel material, it is advisable to investigate names used by New Testament authors. Characters in the New Testament stories have very applicable names, and each author himself has a name. These names have meanings. No one has explained satisfactorily


 

why the gospels accepted by those who made up the New Testament canon are named after men, three of whom who seem to have no leadership role with any early church community. The names of the gospel writers are Mark (meaning polite, shining), Matthew (meaning gift of the Lord), Luke (meaning luminous), and John (meaning the grace, gift, or mercy of the Lord). It almost seems as if someone were trying to pick names that would set forth what a gospel should be. A gospel is a gift of the Lord; it is a shining luminous light to the people. Did the gospels get their names because their authors had such obvious talents in dispensing God's wisdom, or did the persons get their names after the Spirit in them produced these enlightening works?

Today's Quakers in their search for a peaceful world, have an Alternatives to Violence Project that they use in a rehabilitative manner in the prison situation. This program gathers about twenty individuals into a consentaneous group. In order to increase the empathy among members of the group, each person gives himself an adjective name that describes him in a positive manner and starts with the same letter as his given name. We have names such as Terrific Tom, Kindly Karen, and Courteous Curtis. The others in the group all affirm him by calling him by this name. For ages we have known that calling a person by an uplifting name, helps that person to become more.

Looking at the names of the disciples who gathered around Jesus, we find that they have very positive names. It seems highly probable that a rabbi would have renamed the men who came to him, to encourage them to virtuous behavior.

In an ancient rabbinic listing, there is mentioned a Jesus who registered five students whose names are given as Toda, Buni, Nezer, Naqqai, and Mattai.2 None of these appellations sounds familiar to us, except perhaps the last. It may merely be an unnamed disciple, as the Greek word for disciple may be written in comparable English letters as Mathetes. If a rabbi had a female student, he might list her simply under the term disciple and not give her name, as female students were not allowed.

In ordinary life the disciples of Jesus may have been known by names given to them by their parents. When they joined the rabbinic circle to be taught by Jesus, they may have been given new names to emphasize their participation in new community. As the early church expanded, it may have continued this entrance rite of naming. Notice that in our customs of today we are given a new name in baptism, and another in the sacrament of confirmation. The Bible promises a new and secret name to those who prove


 

victorious (Revelation 2:17).

The new names of some of Jesus' disciples listed in Luke 6:14-16 with possible meanings are: Simon (who hears and obeys) who has the added name of Peter (rock), Andrew (strong), James (the true Jew, as Jacob was the inheritor of the promise made to Abraham, rather than his brother Esau), John (grace or gift of the Lord), Simon the Zealot (the zealous one who hears and obeys - not necessarily a rabble rouser who joined the Jesus group), and Judas son of James (the praise of the Lord, son of a true Jew). The last name on the list is that of Judas Iscariot. Judas or Judah means the praise of the Lord or the pride of the Jews. Judah was the tribe of David, and also of Jesus. Judas was a respected disciple, one who was trustworthy enough to carry the purse for the group. The second name given here was not a name given him by Jesus, but by the early church community. "Ish" (meaning man) and "caroth" (meaning he that cuts off or exterminates) combine to give the name "Iscariot" (meaning the one who betrayed). Another interpretation of Judas' second name might be the man who cut himself off from loving community.

Women disciples mentioned in Mark 15:40 and Luke 8:2-3 have names with desirable connotations: Susanna means joy; Salome means peace; Joanna is grace or gift of the Lord and her husband Chuza is not just an ordinary servant of Herod, but a seer. The name Mary presents problems, as it has come to have so many meanings. Possibilities range from exalted and princess, through mistress of the sea and myrrh of the sea, down to bitterness. It is difficult to say what the precise meaning may have been for the disciple Mary Magdalene. Supposing that Magdala is not a place but a descriptive adjective on the order of Iscariot, we come up with a very positive name. The name Magdalene means grand, elevated, magnificent. If we take the meaning exalted for her first name Mary, we can see that the early Jesus community had a tremendous amount of respect for this woman. Varying suggestions for names can be found in different biblical concordances. New Testament names may be of Hebrew, Greek, or Roman origin. Those who dwelt in Palestine certainly may have had Hebrew names. They also may have had Greek names as Hellenistic culture had penetrated there for several centuries. When the Jewish temple was destroyed and Palestinians fled to Rome to escape the trauma of 66-70 AD, they probably took Latin names, in order to be better accepted by the Roman population. Someone who trusted in God, who felt that he had been lifted up by his God in a threatening situation, might call himself Aquilla (meaning eagle). A woman who was wise and elderly, a true abba type, might be given the respectful


 

name of Priscilla (meaning ancient one).

Names in the Bible were often used as a help in the relating of a story. Bible stories were circulated orally, and one way to remember the story was to remember the name that went with the story. If one remembered the name, one might remember the story. If one remembered the story, one would probably get the right name to go with it. For instance, today if we told a story about a house being built, the name associated with the story might be Mr. Carpenter. This method was much more important in the days before printing. With mass proliferation of the written word, we no longer have to strain our memories, and we can use all sorts of strange names that have nothing to do with the action content of the story.

We all have played the game of Gossip where a story is related from mouth to mouth, and ends up all out of proportion to its original pronouncement. Notice that if a given name is used, the name usually comes out the same in the end. If we are gossiping about someone, the story we tell about him may change, probably for the worse, but we get his name straight. Thus the using of names that had a meaning to suit the story, had an important place in the oral tradition that made up the Bible. Descriptive names also have the advantage of adding information to the story.

To illustrate this procedure of using appropriate names, let's look at the incident related in Acts chapter 19. Verse 23 tells us that there is a problem in Ephesus because those who made their livelihood by crafting statues, can't make sales to Christian believers. If the believers proselytize their other customers, no one will believe in the goddess Diana, and the workmen will starve. A silversmith by the name of Demetrius (which means belonging to the Greek goddess Demeter) called all the guild workers together and got them to stage a riot. The crowd grabbed Gaius (meaning either an ordinary man or a lord) and Aristarchus (meaning a good prince or person) and hustled them to a public meeting. Alexander (meaning one who helps stoutly) attempted to talk to the crowd, but was shouted down. The town clerk managed to send them all home. Extra information is given in all the above names. For instance, Demetrius is not only an adherent of Diana, the moon and hunting goddess, but is a follower of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. This information reinforces the facts of the story.

This isn't too exciting a story unless you're an early Christian worried about rioting pagans, but it illustrates a whole field of possible investigation. Today we take confirmation names as a sign of being in a new relationship with God and church. Back then, descriptive words were used for many purposes. Saul (the destroyer) became Paul (the worker). When


 

Jesus was before Pilate, his persecutors stirred up the crowd to ask for Bar-rabbas, the son of the rabbis or the follower of Jewish teachings accepted by their particular group. Bishop Polycarp, a century or so later, received the name Polycarp as that person had many fruits of the Spirit. This system of names and naming used in oral transmission worked in many instances. Some of the differences between the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of John are due to oral rendering of names. The similarities among the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are believed to be the result of their having a common written source. This personal theory of mine that name differences in oral carrying of the word, caused name changes in later written sources, can perhaps be illustrated in the story of Lazarus.

The name Lazarus means Help of God. The names in the story in John's Gospel 11:1-44 tells us that Jesus' raising of Lazarus had something to do with the help of God. John is the only gospel writer who tells of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, the only gospel writer who speaks of Lazarus as the brother of Mary and Martha. The term brother may mean relative. The relationship may be as thin as being born in the same town. Indeed, verse one puts it, that a certain man was ill, who was from the same village as Mary and Martha. Mary and Martha also may be merely relatives of each other, and not blood sisters. They may be called sisters because they come from the same community of Christ's followers, at Bethany. Don't even we, today, call fellow members of our communities, sister and brother? There is another New Testament character from Bethany. His name is Simon the Leper (Matthew 26:6), or Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36, 40). The name Simon means who hears or obeys. Is this Pharisee leper the leper of Matthew 8:2 who was cured by Jesus and consequently joined the ranks of believers? Is this the disciple mentioned in Matthew 10:4, Simon the Zealous One (also in Luke 6:15, Mark 3:18, Acts 1:13)? A group of followers of Jesus may have centered themselves in Bethany and formed the first Christian prayer community at the home of this man whom Jesus had healed. Bethany means the house of the Grace of God. This prayer group like most groups had a wide variety in its members. There was Lazarus, representing the poor of the village, whose indomitable spirit assisted the others to heights of belief. There was Martha, who may have been the wife of Simon, as she spent a lot of time in the kitchen. There was Mary who came from outside this particular household (Mark 14:3; Matthew 26:6) with her jar of anointing perfume for the Messiah. Many stories about Jesus had their origin in this group, and were carried by word of mouth to many different places, through many reinterpretations, and perhaps through some name changes.


 

After many retellings, as in the game of Gossip, the raising of Lazarus from the dead resurfaces in a different context. We have two stories in Luke. The first one tells of Lazarus and Abraham (Luke 16:19-31) and the second tells of the raising of the widow's son (Luke 7:11-17). This event takes place in Nain, and Nain may very well be a place name. If a word is said orally a number of times, it may be changed slightly. The word Nain may change easily to Naum, which means comforter. As Jesus comforts the widow in this pericope, it might be that the original place for the story is still Bethany, and that the name of the man was called Naum, or the widow's dead husband was Naum. Perhaps one of the relators of the Lazarus story, forgot that the name to be used in the raising-of-the-dead story was the name Lazarus, and hit upon the other appropriate name that meant comforter. Still another person in the story-telling brigade, may have thought of Naum as a place name, and thus dislocated the story from its original location of Bethany. Much investigation is possible in this research area of names being associated with stories, that might yield new information about and reinforcements of the Jesus pericopes.

8.4 Female Authorship In The Gospels of Matthew and Mark

If in going through the four gospels, there can be found something in each, that is more likely for a woman to say than for a man to say, then that should at least raise doubts in your mind about male authorship of the written material, or male initiation of the oral tradition. It is necessary to realize that the communities that produced these gospels wanted their public to believe that the gospel witnesses were men. It was culturally unacceptable in those times to have a female witness. Even though a woman gave her witness, two men were necessary before it could be legally corroborated. If a woman was the first to arrive on the scene of the empty tomb, and the first one to see the resurrected Lord, her witness would count for naught. One male might be listened to. Two males were the legal requirement. As no Hebrew male could legally accept the witness of Mary Magdalene on the tomb, the four gospel writers are required to produce male witnesses for the resurrection, after stating the true fact that Mary got there first. Mark and Matthew produce an angel (Mark 16:5; Matthew 28:2), and Luke makes it legal with two men in brilliant clothes (Luke 24:4). The Gospel According to John brings Peter on the scene with another disciple who is assumed to be male. Considering this necessity for male witnesses, it is obvious that I am starting out under a handicap in my quest for the feminine element.

The earliest gospel to be written was most likely that of Mark. It seems that the authors Matthew and Luke both used the Marcan source


 

material and a second body of information called the Q Source. On these foundations they placed prayers, songs, and stories in use in their communities. The gospels of Matthew and Luke are similar in content, but charged with distinctive theologies. Matthew's theology was created for a Jewish community which after the destruction of Jerusalem found itself at odds with Pharisaical Judaism. Luke's theology speaks of salvation history, the men and women who have had parts to play in this drama, and the love of God for all peoples. The Gospel According to John likewise has its own original theology. The humanity of Jesus is emphasized, rather than his divinity. John writes about the same person Jesus but the stories in John come through a different channel of the tradition. These verbal channels may well be the voices of women talking together among their own kind. The traditional stories in all four gospels with their variations have been used to cheer and encourage the down trodden. We find more women than men among the down-trodden of the first century. We find many stories about women, designed to give heart to women. Both the written and the oral tradition about women may have been given through women to uplift women.

This Gospel of Mark was probably written in Rome shortly after the fall of Jerusalem. Assuming that this author is an unknown woman, I shall call her Marcia, to keep the emphasis on the feminine possibility of authorship. Marcia and her community had been expecting the imminent return of Jesus, yet they had lived through the apocalyptic drama of 66-70 AD with its many false and deceiving prophets, and Jesus did not come. Marcia's community began to think that this return might take longer than they at first thought. They felt the urge to set down words for future generations in order to keep their teachings unadulterated. Marcia's description of the horrors of holocaust include her concern for women, "How terrible it will be in those days for women who are pregnant and for mothers of little babies!" (Mark 13:17). She may be writing from experience. She may be one of those who fled to the hills (Mark 13:14) and then was assisted by other Christians to leave the country and take ship for Rome.

The story of the hemorrhaging woman in Mark 5 is an incident that a woman would feel more comfortable relating to another woman, than to a man. It seems that in its oral form it must have come from a woman, witnessing about herself, and that only another woman would have taken this information and written it down. Men would politely omit such a story. It is only a secondary incident in the more important pericope of the healing of Jairus' daughter, so it could have easily been left out. A woman author


 

would feel a certain amount of empathy with a hemorrhaging sister, and would want to rejoice and celebrate the incident. This incident may be material coming through an oral relator, Marcia, or a written pericope from an authoress, Marcia.

The Gospel of Matthew was written sometime before 90 AD by a Jewish refugee who had fled to Syria. This Syrian community was in dialogue and in opposition to the community of Jews that had fled Jerusalem to Jamnia to continue their interpretations of Moses. Some of the assertions made by Mathilda (as I shall call her to emphasize her possible femininity) are in reaction to proclamations made at Jamnia. The unladylike diatribe made against the Pharisees in Matthew 23, sounds very much like an irate woman of today complaining against what she believes to be the insufferable patriarchalism of the hierarchy.

Mathilda has a very feminine understanding of the Virgin Mary. All her language is couched to give gentle confirmation to this wonderful woman who found herself in the awkward position of pregnancy. For a woman of that day and age to be pregnant by someone other than her intended husband, meant death by stoning if the intended husband complained. As no one could prove in these situations what man was guilty, no man was condemned. The woman could not legally witness, so she could not accuse her attacker. Therefore the woman as evidence that a sin had been committed had to go, and with her the innocent child in her womb. (Isn't present day abortion preferable to this horror?) Joseph and some other people of his day saw the evil forces at work in this condemnation of pregnancy due to rape or youthful experimentation. I like to think that the Holy Spirit was at work here, showing the fullness of God's love to every infant in the womb, whether placed there by desire for family, or through misintention. The first indignity that Jesus underwent, was the indignity of unknown parentage. The Holy Spirit through the author Mathilda, shows us that God has control of all these situations, that God has plans for each conception that takes place, and that each and every conception shows that "God is with us!" Mathilda has Joseph naming the child Jesus (Matthew 1:25), showing us Joseph's firm belief that God would make Salvation out of even the most unpromising situation. This writer's concern for the abused female and fetus shows either a feminine mind-set or a man who was open to the problems of women.

The feminine mind is also evident in the genealogy of Matthew 1:1-16. This is not a severely patriarchal and conforming genealogy. There are four matriarchs mentioned, besides the mother Mary who is the exemplary


 

matriarch for us all.

Use of the names Marcia and Mathilda is merely to suggest the possibility that these gospels could be authored by women. When we tackle the gospels by Lucy and Joanna, we will uncover much more material that speaks to feminine authorship. While Marcia and Mathilda are possibilities, the thoroughness of Lucy speaks of a feminine work of literature, and the historical insights in John's Gospel assure us of the reality of the woman Joanna.

8.5 The Feminine In The Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Luke is very well organized, as if one all-encompassing mind gathered the information that was available in the community, and designed the whole work, balancing both its major sections and its minor sections. This gospel goes with its companion piece, the Acts of The Apostles, and the two together are the creation of a skilled author who tells the story of Jesus and the story of the infant church, with carefully constructed parallelism. Thrown in for good measure, into this literary gem, are a theology and a Christology viable for us today.

Who are we supposed to think Luke is? The person named Luke is mentioned as Paul's "dear friend, Luke the doctor" in Colossians 4:14. It is implied that he is not "one of the circumcision" who are Paul's helpers described in Colossians 4:10-13. This may mean that Luke is Greek. If this person is the Luke who wrote the Gospel, he has certainly inquired thoroughly into Jewish customs and scriptures. Not only was this man a busy doctor, but a well read scholar, who seemed to have plenty of time to formulate a great work of art. He was also well acquainted with the legal structures of his day. Perhaps the person Luke was a bundle of energy and had all these various accomplishments, but it is a lot to expect of one human being, when you consider that most of us don't have time for even our minimum daily needs. It is more logical to think that some well-to-do woman whose needs were supplied by a husband or father had time on her hands to compose the Luke-Acts duo. Philip (either the apostle of Acts 1:13 or the deacon of Acts 6:5) had four daughters who were talented women (Acts 21:9) any one of which might be a candidate for the title of Lucy.

Perhaps Luke's wife was the author. We picture the four gospel writers as unmarried men, unhampered with the cares of family, but celibacy as a requirement for the priesthood was still many years in the future. We admit that Peter had a wife, because he had a mother-in-law, but his wife is never mentioned, unless she is the wife of Cleopas (=Cepheus=Peter?) on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-18. Likewise if Matthew, Mark, Luke, or


 

John had wives, we do not hear about them. As property, they are assumed to belong to the man, but are not advertised. As it was customary for men to marry early, we can assume that Luke, if he were a man, was a married man, unless it was implied to the contrary. Luke's wife may have been the educated person who wrote under his name. Again, the name Luke may not designate a person; Luke may have been merely a good title for a gospel, or what someone thought was an appropriate name for a gospel author.

Today some people claim to be able to tell if an article is written by a man or a woman. They reason that often women explain things more gently, as if dealing with children. Men are more apt to make complicated constructs, to set things out in a formal way, and to prove things legalistically.

There are many possible reasons for suspecting that the author of Luke is a woman or a man sensitive to female equality with the male. The author lays things out very clearly, as if we were beloved children and she really wanted us to understand. She is very broad minded; she emphasizes all people. Both the Gospel of Luke and The Acts are addressed in non-sexist terms to Theophilus (meaning friend or lover of God), a term that can be applied to all Christians everywhere, both men and women (Luke 1:3: Acts 1:1). This author always tones down the violence that she comes across in her sources. She shows empathy and stresses the forgiveness of others. These traits speak more for the feminine. This gospel's treatment of women is kinder and more prolific than that of the other gospel writers (except for specific narratives in John). This author mentions the female disciples (Luke 8:1-3), and we are allowed to imagine that the Seventy Two disciples of Luke 10:1 might not all be men. In spite of the legal witnessing problem, we can visualize husband-wife teams. On the road to Emmaus, we find a husband-wife team (Luke 24:13-35). One of the disciples in this story doesn't have a name, so we must assume it is a woman. The correct translation of Luke 24:25 is not, "O foolish men!" but closer to "O foolish ones!" Cleopas is accompanied by his wife, and as his name can be translated glory together, we suspect that the author Lucy is telling us about a loving couple who shared the presence of Jesus.

Taking a quick run through the Gospel of Luke, we find that there are more mentions of women therein than in any other gospel. This is unusual for the male dominated society of the time. Although women might be in a certain place, it would not be mentioned by a male author, or even by a female author who was following the custom of the day. It did not particularly matter what women did or said. Only when a woman did something


 

outstandingly horrifying would she get noticed publicly by the male community. Usually the first step of such a woman's action was inciting men to lust. In the Old Testament Judith impresses Holofernes with her beauty (Judith 10:23) and cuts off his head. We know that she is a good, patriotic woman because the authoress (?) informs us that she is the epitome of Jewish womanhood, as her name is the feminine of Judah or Judas. Women mentioned in the New Testament for scandalous behavior, are fewer. We have Salome dancing. This incident is omitted by Lucy.

Only a woman writer, or a very sympathetic man, would balance off the writing with stories about both men and women. These "equal time" scenes are Simeon balanced with Anna (Luke 2:33-38), and the widow's son (Luke 7:11-17) balanced with Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:40-56). We have the shepherd finding his lost sheep, and the housewife, her lost coin (Luke 15:4-10), an equal balance between the masculinity and the femininity of God.

Women in the Old Testament had claim to fame because they were mothers of sons. Lucy sets us straight about this with the words of Jesus on relationships: "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice" (Luke 8:21). Not the sons women produce, but the qualities of love and forgiveness are the important things about a woman, or about any other human being.

Keeping in mind that women were unacceptable as witnesses in the early centuries, we can see that there was not much point in putting them into the story if a person were needed to prove that an incident happened. If Mary Magdalene were in the Garden with Jesus, there was no need to mention it, as it wouldn't count. If she went into the courtyard of the high priest with Peter and heard the cock crow, she could tell Peter's friends about it later, but no one was required to believe her as a legal witness. Women were considered non-persons; credibility was reserved for men. One can think of a Lucy being called to write a gospel of Jesus for her community, and her posing the question to herself, "How can I do this thing seeing I am not a man?" "Who will believe me?" The men of the community would have to vouch for her words. Nothing is difficult for the Holy Spirit, and Lucy's answer as to how she would achieve the difficult task of writing a gospel was, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The power of the Most High will cover you with her shadow," the same answer as God's messenger gave to Mary, the representative of women, when she asked how to achieve creative motherhood (Luke 1:35).

It might be relevant to repeat here that the Holy Spirit of the early


 

church was a feminine quantity called Holy Wisdom or Santa Sophia. Lucy in speaking of the Most High covering Mary with its shadow, didn't have in mind an impregnation of a female by a male God, especially since this Wisdom of God was considered female. It wasn't until the syncretistic time of Constantine that this scene took on the Jupiter-Io slant of male god and virgin. Lucy was deftly sketching here a picture of the Wisdom of God entering into the situation in which Mary found herself, and Lucy also portrays this Wisdom uniting with Jesus at his baptism by John the Baptist. Jesus, in order to be totally human, needed to receive genes from two human beings. His humanity was truly human; his spiritual likeness to God must be considered separately.

We cannot understand the Mystery that is God. The author of the Gospel of John sees the Wisdom of God with God at the beginning of time (John 1:2). Jesus speaking of the Spirit (John 3:8) compares it to the wind; it blows where it pleases. If God's Spirit blows where it pleases, we must not be trapped into saying we know how God works. We must not assert that God's Spirit is a male quantity that goes around fertilizing virgins. We must leave room for God to act with more imagination than we ourselves possess. We must not insult God-head by thinking that the Unknowable is sperm-producing like some of us. God is Mystery, and beyond sperm and ovum. Lucy, in writing of the Blessed Virgin, has often been misinterpreted by readers who have limited viewpoints about wombs and sperm.

8.6 Many Writings For Fullest Revelation

The female viewpoint must necessarily be included in the Bible, but we must search it out carefully, as it has passed through so many centuries of disuse and abuse. In order to have any possibility of getting the full message of Jesus Christ, we need all the different gospels, the epistles, and also Revelation. The message comes filtered through individuals, each coming from his own culture and seeing the message his select way. God, in his wisdom, wouldn't have left out the female viewpoint, as God is the totality of all viewpoints.

Lucy's community was evidently educated and wealthy. Her family must have been upperclass and was able to allow her to develop her obvious talent. Her knowledge seems to be less that of a doctor and more in the legal field. Her father or her husband may have been a lawyer or a rhetoritician. It was only natural for her friends who recognized her abilities to ask her to write down community beliefs, and they probably never even thought about the fact that they would be getting a female theological viewpoint through her writing instrument. They believed they were receiving a recording


 

of historical data, as their community had been led to see it. In being required to write down these beliefs, Lucy had to think things through clearly, and people of all time are the privileged beneficiaries. How fitting that the name of this gospel means luminous. Lucy has given light to the world!

8.7 Lucy's Theology

The theology of the Gospel of Luke did not originate in a vacuum but in a warm and loving community. Lucy was a living breathing person absorbing, discarding, and molding the ideas of others into a harmonious whole. To read her gospel is to become amazed at her ability to weave many threads together. With the guidance of the Spirit, in the dual work of Luke-Acts, she has created a tapestry of exquisite beauty. Much recent scholarship on the subject is helping us to get to the back side of the tapestry so that we can see what went into this marvelous creation.

The literary style of Lucy is par excellence. It begins with a classic type of prologue (Luke 1:1-4), proceeds through an Hebraic infancy narrative (1:5 - 2:52) and soars through the rest of the gospel in the best Old Testament manner. In Acts the classical style comes into action, and formal speeches are interwoven with church creeds and customs. Lucy is writing for Gentiles, so she makes changes in the synoptic tradition that emphasize her points. She is kind to the Romans, in having the centurion at the foot of the cross confess the goodness of Jesus (Luke 23:47). She attempts to show that the Christians are the true Israel; it is the Jews who are cutting their own selves off from their God's plan of salvation. Lucy omits Semitic words or uses a substitute word, for her Gentile audience. She has fewer quotes from the Old Testament than the other gospel writers, and she translates these quotes rather freely. Her facts of history are rendered rather loosely, in order to better serve her theology.

The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of The Apostles together form two magnificent blocks of parallel material. The actions of Jesus in Luke are copied by actions of Peter or Paul or both in Acts. Jesus' ministry in the Spirit is followed by the church's ministry. Jesus gives the message to the apostles; the apostles take the message to the world.

Helmut Flender divides Lucy's parallelism into several types.3 The first is complimentary parallelism, as shown in Lucy's treatment of men and women. If we are given female diviners in the persons of Philip's daughters, we are then presented with a male diviner Agabus (Acts 21:9, 10). Lucy uses a second type of parallelism called climatic, which compares the Old Testament mode of the prophetic message, with God's kingdom


 

preached by Jesus.4 This is shown in the diptych of John and Jesus. A third type is antithetical parallelism where Lucy balances salvation and judgment, pharisee and publican, two thieves at the crucifixion, suffering and glorification of Jesus, and refusal and receptivity of the Kingdom of God.5

Lucy's purpose is not the writing of factual history, but the setting forth of what is believed in the Christian community. She traces "the continuous development of the history of salvation."6 According to Hans Conzelmann, Lucy's writings develop the expectation of the parousia into a coming kingdom towards which the Christians can work.7 Oscar Cullman would have us believe that this was an easy task for Lucy, as this coming kingdom is the original message of Jesus.8

Lucy traces salvation history of the Old Testament in her speeches in Acts, describes the part that John the Baptist plays in The Gospel of Luke, carries it through the healing ministry and message of forgiveness of Jesus, and back in Acts again, shows how the Spirit of Jesus is active in his church. Lucy lays out before us the saving activity of God in the Old Testament and shows how it continues through the Spirit of Jesus. For Lucy, God preordains what happens on earth and what happens in the church. "He decreed how long each nation should flourish and what the boundaries of its territories should be" (Acts 17:26).

What happens for the salvation of humankind happens from divine necessity; so it is that Jesus must go up to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), and Paul and Barnabas must go to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). Through this divine necessity, God in the person of Jesus, offers salvation to all people, both men and women. Lucy is a universalist: for her, Jesus brings the blessings of salvation to all the earth.

The person and activity of Jesus Christ is the story that Lucy brings us. In her Christology, God is the agent, and Jesus is first, the earthly great prophet (Luke 4:24; 7:16; 9:19), and then the Resurrected and Exalted One who sends his Spirit (Luke 24:46, 49, 52; Acts 2:33). In his span on earth, Jesus is the Messiah who is promised by the Old Testament (Luke 9:20; Acts 26:23). He is also the Suffering Servant of The Book of Isaiah who must suffer to enter into his glory (Luke 24:26; Acts 8:32, 33). Through his words and deeds he reveals what God is like (Luke 10:22). In the ascension narratives Jesus' physical life on earth is terminated, and his position in heaven is established from which he continues to act for his people. The power which he exercised to work miracles on earth as shown in The Gospel of Luke, is now seen working through his disciples in the parallelisms of The Acts of The Apostles.


 

Lucy's Christology is artistically brought to a head in Luke 9:7-9 where the important personage of Herod the Tetrarch is shown asking the question, "Who is this?" This is the question that every Christian must answer for her/himself. Lucy suggests several possible responses. At the Annunciation the angel states that the child will be called Holy and Son of God (Luke 1:35). In Luke 8:25 the disciples ask, "Who is this that the winds and sea obey?" Peter relates who the crowds believe Jesus to be:— John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the old prophets (Luke 9:19). Lucy has Jesus calling himself Son of Man. She presents Jesus as the true human being of this creation, who through his suffering, death, and resurrection is transformed to heavenly Lord.

The most obvious place to look for a writer's theology is in the titles that are given to Jesus. In John's gospel, Jesus is The Word. Mathilda favors the title Son of God. Marcia likes Son of Man and Son of David. Lucy uses the title Lord about ninety times. She uses it for both God and Jesus. Acts 10:36 describes Jesus Christ as Lord of All. Acts 3:14 is full of titles— Holy One, Just One, Prince of Life, Prophet. Acts 5 sees Jesus as Savior, Son of Man, Son of God, and Judge. In all these magnificent titles Jesus is still subordinated to the Father; we have low Christology in Luke/Acts. Jesus Christ is less important than God the Father.

In Acts 22:14 the title of Just One is used. It is a Messianic title of honor.9 It is also used by Lucy in Acts 3:14 and 7:52; and in the Epistle of James 5:6. Many are described as just, for instance Noah, Simeon, and Joseph of Arimathea. In Lamentations 4:13 are bewailed, "the crimes of her priests who shed the blood of the just in the heart of the city." In Isaiah 45:21, God is described as just. "Am I not Yahweh? There is no other God beside me, a just God and a savior; there is none apart from me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth..." Many are just, but when the Just One is spoken of, the implication becomes that of God being uniquely revealed in a special individual who will bring salvation to "all the ends of the earth" (Isaiah 45:22). Today some of us believe we know who this is.

These titles are used by Lucy to help us answer the question, "Who is this?" Lucy is only pointing the way we should look for the answer, because she knows we can't figure out the answer. She tells us (Luke 10:22), "No one knows who the Son is except the Father."

We find more of Lucy's theology in her portrayal of witnesses who see and hear. Paul is to be a witness to all men of what he has seen and heard (Acts 22:15). The apostles of Acts 1:4 heard Jesus when he spoke about the Father's promise. In Acts 4:4 many of those who heard the mes


 

sage became believers. In Acts 4:20 the apostles have to speak about the things they have seen. In Acts 11:23 Barnabas could see that the Lord had given grace. Jesus invites the people in the crowd (Luke 8:8), "Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!" He proclaims to the disciples, "Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it" (Luke 10:23,24).

Lucy has set down the possibility that some of the hearers or witnesses may be of the feminine gender as in Acts 4:4. By the witness telling what he/she has seen and heard, he/she brings his/her audience to know what the Lord is like (as they see Jesus' characteristics in the witness). (Contrary to those who advocate a solely male priesthood, it is obvious in Lucy's work that the loving characteristics of Jesus are just as likely to be found in a woman as in a man.) The witness by showing forth the characteristics of Jesus, thus brings others to the presence of the Lord (which is living in the body of the witness). Lucy is showing us that true discipleship is a way of making Jesus present.

To prove this mode of Jesus' presence, in Luke 18:31-34, Jesus instructs the twelve on his suffering to come. Luke 24:6-8 recalls the words he spoke in Galilee, to the disciples' minds. Luke 24:46-48 speaks of the scripture on Jesus' dying and rising, and of forgiveness preached in his name, which is to be witnessed to the nations. The apostles who witness to all these things, as spoken of in Acts 10:41, must proclaim this to all people. In Acts 22 Paul and Stephen are both called witness. Paul is chosen to be witness of the Just One before all humankind (Acts 22:15). The church continues to be the bearer of Jesus. If the men and women of the church speak out about Jesus and are not silent or afraid, then Jesus will be with his people (Acts 18:10). A witnessing church comprised of both genders, makes Jesus present to the world.

8.8 Female Relatedness

This theology of Lucy's has been given in great depth as it is going to be used to prove her feminine gender. Three aspects of her theology have been described; the flow of her salvation history, the Christology contained in the titles she gives to Jesus, and her emphasis on witnessing as a means of making Jesus present to others.

The Gospel of Luke maintains a unity of perspective, a certain relationship among God, Jesus, and humankind. Earl Richard notes that "Luke uses the Saul/Paul tradition to demonstrate the Christian community's continuity (positive and negative) with official, especially Pharisaic, Judaism,


 

to establish a clear relation between the Jewish and Gentile missions, to present the Christological and theological rather than forensic character of Paul's trial, and to affirm an unmistakable link between his readers and the great Pauline mission to Jews and Gentiles."10 Lucy presents the ties between the New and Old Testaments. Her salvation history is very much relational.

Present day psychiatrists have come up with some apparent differences between men and women. These can be illustrated by how young boys and girls play games. Janet Lever observed that boys games last longer than those of girls because they enjoy robust play more, and argue enthusiastically over disputes. This leads to doing the play over, and making up new rules. On the contrary, when an argument arises in a girls' game, the game breaks up, because the girls worry more about personal relationships, and don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.11 In general, the female is led to feel continuity between herself and her mother. The male at an early age senses the difference between himself and his mother, and becomes more accustomed to the severing of relationships, and the maintenance of an independent ego. He is more oriented towards dualities, as he can perceive himself and the other opposing him. He sees things as black or white, good or evil, for him or against him. He makes rules to support what is right, and to put down what is wrong. He tends to state these rules authoritatively.

Lucy's story of salvation history flows as smoothly as mother love. Her theology is based on the need for people to have loving relationships with each other. She insists on forgiveness and emphasizes healing. Her Lord wants all peoples to exist in peaceful affinity with one another. She doesn't make rules and regulations. The male who wrote Timothy and Titus is heavy on rules. The Jewish priesthood is another example of the male making rules, and then more rules. The Pharisees piled rules on top of rules, as the game of life progressed. Our present male priesthood is still making rules, and enjoying it, as evidenced by the latest Code of Canon Law. But Lucy, as feminine, by passed the rules in favor of loving relationships.

The titles set forth in Lucy's theology are given as suggestions, not authoritatively or in a patriarchal manner. We are led by a gentle and friendly hand to make up our own mind on the great question, "Who is this?" Church fathers and a domineering hierarchy are always willing to tell all peoples just what they should believe. Lucy goes at it in a different way; we are to introduce the Lord to others by the witness we give to him in our own life. If we truly love another, we give the other freedom to think and to make up


 

his/her own mind.

We have already spoken of the legal restraints against the ability of a woman to witness. Lucy's attitude on this subject proves her feminine gender. She sees nothing wrong with a woman being a visible witness, either with her husband, as on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:35), or alone in a crowd, as the woman with the hemorrhage (Luke 8:48). Lucy's background and beliefs make her open to the radical thought of women as public witnesses to the faith.

Deutero-Paul in Colossians 4 leads us to believe that there was a Gentile person called Luke, but it is highly unlikely that a Greek male doctor wrote Luke-Acts. Our Lucy has been to the temple in Jerusalem, and knows both Gentile customs and Jewish practices thoroughly. She is very broad minded. She might be the child of a mixed marriage. She might be the Jewish wife of a Gentile husband. God picks whom God wills, to perform necessary tasks, and God designed our Lucy carefully for her job of gospel authoress.

8.9 Luke versus Lucy

I myself believe in the distinct possibility of the author Lucy, but I want to emphasize that I am not trying to make you believe what I believe. Absolutely factual history is very difficult to come by. Even witnesses on a given scene at a given time, such as those who tell the tale of the sinking of the Titanic, come up with opposing views. If men are more comfortable with thinking of the author of The Gospel of Luke as a man, I would not try to argue them out of their comfortable belief. However, I would like them to consider my point of view as a possibility, only so that they might think of the lack of confidence with which many men today still regard women.

Both men and women can be easily hurt by a discussion of the place of women in history. If women are too insistent about great women writers and rulers, men take it as a personal thing against male ability in general. This doesn't have to be so, but often down in our sub-conscious are hurts that get riled up when making comparisons of men and women. I have found that I have filed in my sub-conscious certain sensitivities that take strange occasions to rise to the fore.

For instance, I inquired of a knowledgeable male associate who had just admired the clarity of the Lucan gospel, if he could possibly consider the Lucan writings as feminine, as opposed to the Pauline writings as being masculine. His response was an emphatic, "No!" He went on to list all the faults of the Pauline writings. He described them as too passionate, talking down, lacking in punctuation, with run on sentences. He concluded they


 

were definitely feminine. Then he praised the Lucan writings as having masculine clarity, being well thought out, written in a controlled manner. He listed all the good qualities of the particular writing, and called them male qualities. He listed all that was wrong with the Pauline writings, and called them female qualities. I was reminded of the early Gnostic community who termed people of upstanding character as male, and those they found fault with as female. I felt hurt and personally put down. I knew in my inmost heart that whatever I wrote would contain those despised supposedly feminine characteristics I would write run on sentences omit proper punctuation and use passionate urgings on my correspondents. A second woman witnessing this conversation evidently had some stirrings from her sub-conscious also, as she sighed softly, "We can't win."

Feeling this hurt in myself, I have no desire to wound any men among my readers who have been hurt by women insisting on the correctness of the female position. Please continue looking at my presentation as a speculative game. I do not want to tear down useful structures or upset any balances of power. I merely want both men and women to consider that both men and women working under the guidance of the Holy Spirit may be responsible for our great religious writings and our theologies.

NOTES

1 N. Perrin, The New Testament (Chicago: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1974), p. 119.

2 Theological Dictionary of The New Testament Volume IV , edited by Gerhard Kittel: (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Erdman's Publishing Company, 1967), p. 442.

3 Helmut Flender, St. Luke (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), pp. 28-34.

4 ibid., p. 34.

5 ibid., p. 29.

6 Hans Conzelmann, "Luke's Place In The Development of Early Christianity" in Studies in Luke-Acts, edited by Leander Keck and J. Louis Martyn; (New York: Abingdon Press, 1966), p. 308.

7 I. H. Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,1970), p. 83.

8 I. H. Marshall, loc.cit.

9 Richard Dillon & Joseph Fitzmyer, "Acts of The Apostles" in Jerome Biblical Commentary Volume II, Editor Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, and Roland Murphy; (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1968), Acts 22.

10 Earl Richard, "Luke-Writer, Theologian, Historian: Research and Orientation of the 1970's" in Biblical Theological Bulletin Volume XIII (# 1, January 1983), p. 7.

11 Carol Gilligan, In A Different Voice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1982), p. 9.

Is it possible that some or even all of the Gospel writers

may have been women?


 

Chapter IX: ONE POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO THE MYSTERY IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

9.1 A Whodunit!

In the Gospel of John we have a mystery. Let's do a little sleuthing on it. We will not draw infallible conclusions. We will say "perhaps" and "possibly." We will keep in mind that in the second century AD patriarchy may have been a good protective coat for Christianity, and that the Holy Spirit may have inspired male leadership for the good of the community, as female leadership might have been discounted by a patriarchal Graeco-Roman world. However, what is good for one time and place, may not necessarily be optimum for another. We hope that our society today has progressed beyond such constrictive modes of operation. The way God works historically in humankind is past our comprehension. After all, if God is a loving process, we who are finite, and at a particular spot in history, cannot hope to understand that process. We can't direct the mind of God. We can only seek, with a desire to understand, so that we may better perform our infinitesimal part in the wondrous whole.

Hopefully, this chapter will help you to reconsider about the main author of John's gospel. This gospel may not have been written by a man named John. It may have been oral material handed down from Mary Magdalene, that was edited primarily by a woman named Joanna.

The mystery in the Gospel of John has to do with the identities of the two disciples named as the beloved disciple and the other disciple. For example, when speaking about the disciple Jesus loved, the gospel concludes, "This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down, and we know that his testimony is true" (John 21:24). In considering this quote, we see that the writer is speaking of a person other than himself (or herself). He is saying that we, the community and himself, know the other person's witness is true (not necessarily legal, but definitely true). Could this be a community group confirming a female


 

witness, to make her evidence legal? Could it be a man affirming a female witness? The writer of verse 24 says that this other person vouches for the oral tradition and also wrote down this body of tradition, but he does not claim that the particular version that we today call the Gospel of John is word for word that disciple's material. The most the author of verse 24 is claiming, is that the beloved disciple is behind the written and oral traditions in this gospel. It is highly likely that this beloved disciple is the woman Mary Magdalene.

In considering John 21:24 we must think back to the Apostle Paul, and the statement in II Thessalonians, a Deutero-Paul production,1 where the author who is not Paul, says, "The greetings of me, Paul, in my own hand," when he wants to tell his hearers he is a true witness to Paul's teachings, and that they should hearken to his words as if they came from the hand of Paul himself (II Thessalonians 3:17). In verse 24 we may merely have the writer of verse 24 testifying to the validity of the preceding material. This person may have put the gospel in its present form using the oral and written material coming from the beloved disciple. The name of this author writing in verse 24 may be John; or the "we" may designate a community which the author of verse 24 represents which may be the Johannine community. On the other hand the gospel may derive its name from the meaning of the name John, which is gift or praise or grace of God, as people may have thought that those words would make an appropriate name for a gospel.

If the name of the author who speaks of himself or his community as "we" in John 21:24, is John, we are under no obligation to believe that the beloved disciple he speaks of, is also named John. Misinterpretations of this verse have caused many and varied speculations. Our present policy of attributing the gospel to the Apostle John is based on a shaky proposition set out by Irenaeus late in the second century,2 150 years after Jesus' death. But if the Gospel of John really were the witness of the son of Zebedee, it would have been widely accepted very early and claimed as the work of this prominent Christian authority. Such is not the case. Some scholars claim that John, son of Zebedee, was martyred at an early date in Jerusalem with James, as foretold in Mark 10:35-40. The existence of this gospel seemed to have been relatively unknown until about 90 AD, even though this beloved disciple evidently observed personally much of the Jesus tradition, and appears to have been the favorite of the Master.

Some Bible scholars propose that we owe the Gospel of John in its present form to many different contributors.3 It is a rather heterogeneous


 

book, put together at varying times, by individuals who were members of the same community, but who had different community problems to address. These individuals will be called X-1, X-2, X-3, and so on. The bulk of the material is the oral tradition that comes to us through the beloved disciple. We will designate this person as X-1. X-2 is the person who first wrote down this oral tradition. It seems that the author of the X-1 material was not noticeably interested in the sacraments or the parousia (the second coming), believing that the first coming of Jesus was the decisive event, and that nothing further was needed (John 3:16-21). This X-1 material, which is distinguished by its fluid use of the spiral discourse, a specialty of rabbinic teaching, was circulated in the community for a long period, in which it seems to have been divided into sections. These pieces were of a size that could be conveniently read in a setting of the Jewish home synagogue. Certain readings were assigned to certain festival times, as we have special readings in our churches today for the different Sundays of the year, and for Christmas and Easter. The material to be read on the Sabbath starts at John 5:1; that for Passover, at 6:1; that for the feast of Tabernacles, 7:1; that for the feast of the Dedication, 10:22; and one which perhaps has to do with the Anointing of The King, at 12:1. It appears that the Jesus material appropriate to these feasts was read on those festival days in this synagogue community that had its faith in the new Christian way. X-2 may have written down this oral material.

At some point in the life of this community, it came up against the edict that the Jews at Jamnia issued against the Christians. Believers in Jesus, as heretics, were to be thrown out of the synagogues. This edict was issued between 70 and 90 AD, and the assembled Gospel of John appeared shortly after this issuing.

The author of the original John tradition X-1 may have been dead in 90 AD, and X-2 may have been getting on in years. The second generation of Christians gathered up their precious readings and put them in sequential order as they saw fit, with appropriate transitional verses. We will call this editor X-3. The person X-3 was not too good a compiler, as he misplaced several sections. John 3:22-30 is probably out of place; the order of the chapters 5, 6, and 7 should be 6, 5 and 7 (due to incorrect locale— Jesus is in Jerusalem in chapter 5, and back in Galilee in chapter 6). Verse 12:36 (Jesus hidden) doesn't agree too well with 12:44 (Jesus in public). This disorder may be excusable, as circumstances may have demanded debilitating haste. X-3 is better at the transitional verses (examples are 5.1 and 7.1) than another editor further down the list, X-9, whom we will 


 

criticize in his turn.

Around the time of this compilation, X-4 made a few revisions that introduced the sacraments.4 The community had grown in its understandings, since the early days of its formation, and it was beginning to see that sacraments melded a community together. X-4 is credited with adding the two words, "water and," to John 3:5, thus making the chapter say something about baptism. He sacramentalized the bread discourse of chapter 6, by adding verses 51b - 58, which presents Eucharist as a necessity. In the crucifixion scene X-4 adds the water flowing from the side of Jesus, to bring to mind the water of baptism, and then he adds a statement of verification of witness, so that the reader will know that baptism is a tenet of the faith (John 19:34b-35).

X-4 may be the same person who wrote the letters of John. In order to recognize the letters as a separate entity, we shall call this author of the Johannine epistles by the name of X-5. The person who wrote the letters is a different person than the one who is responsible for the original material of the gospel. This can be observed in comparative reading, as X-1 has a much richer style than X-5.5 One interesting thing about this about 90 AD Christian X-5 who wrote the second epistle of John, is the way she (?) identifies herself (!) in this letter.

Let us look carefully at this second epistle to see if there is the possibility of a woman behind this biblical writing. This epistle of John is written from an elder or presbyter of a community, to a "lady" who is "the chosen one." These terms of lady and chosen one have an associated footnote in some Bibles stating that this feminine wording refers to the word church, which is a noun of feminine gender in the Greek language. The footnote writers don't want us to believe a woman was the presbyter of a church community, but these feminine words may just as likely refer to a chosen feminine church leader, drawn out from her community to lead her community. The epistle is ostensibly addressed to the children in that community, possibly meaning the men and women under the guidance of this female church leader. The letters may have been written by one feminine church leader and sent to another feminine church leader. All three letters of John have a motherly tone, and often refer to the readers as children, as would be appropriate for an elderly or respected matron. This second epistle of John is signed with greetings from the children (men and women) of "your sister," where sister, instead of referring to a feminine church community, again, might refer to the person of the author X-5. The signer also calls herself (?) "the chosen one" which means this person may be the


 

select leader drawn out from her community to be the guider and server of others. We should definitely consider the possibility that the author X-5 is a woman!

If this elder or presbyter hidden under the name of John is feminine, might not the early third century apocryphal work, Pistis Sophia, be referring to the community of Mary Magdalene and her successor X-5 in the following quote?

"But Mary Magdalene and John, the maiden (parthenos), will surpass all my disciples (mathetai) and all men who shall receive mysteries in the Ineffable, they will be on my right hand and on my left, and I am they and they are I."6

I am not saying that this apocryphal statement should be considered as "gospel truth," but only that the information given therein should be considered. The apocryphal material comes from early Christian works which were deemed to be somehow unacceptable for the Canon of The New Testament by the church fathers. These works may have contained true Jesus material, and their unacceptability may have been due to spurious material that had also unfortunately been included. Perhaps they were unacceptable because they were material from a community under female leadership, and the women were not considered to be able to perform as legal witnesses. This previous quote about the maiden John seems to be saying that there is a female called John who is bringing the thought of Jesus to the early church in an unsurpassable manner, and that this woman is somehow connected with Mary Magdalene who also surpasses the other disciples.

Returning to our X-authors, the contributor of the introductory verses of the Gospel According to John (John 1:1-18), we will call X-6. This prologue is a Jewish hymn whose finished product has its roots in many sources. Jesus combined threads of ancient Jewish prayers with his own inventiveness, to give us what is known as the Lord's prayer. Could Jesus also have taken Jewish traditions on wisdom and combined them, to give us what someone thought would be a good introduction to the Gospel of John? The words of verses 6-8 sound very much like words Lucy puts on the lips of Jesus in Luke 7:24-29 when he speaks of John the Baptist. X-6 (who may be the same author as X-5) has woven many diverse threads together to produce this unified entrance hymn for the gospel material.

The story of the adulteress in John 8:2-11 is an insert, not Johannine style at all, authored by X-7.7 In this story we get a very understanding viewpoint on a problem that was vital to women of that time. The woman, who legally should have been stoned, was given a reprieve by Jesus saying,


 

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7). Even if the woman were not at fault, as a victim of rape, she would be a spoiled commodity, fit only for discard. Further on in this chapter, I hope to give reasons why this specific adulteress was probably not Mary Magdalene.

Credit X-8 for the insert in chapter 20:2-9, reflecting the interests of the church. Upon careful examination it is obvious that this is a section added later, as one can go from verse 1 to verse 11, in this chapter, and Mary Magdalene hasn't gone anywhere; she is still at the tomb.8 Perhaps it was necessary for Peter to be described officially as a prime witness to the resurrection, especially after his notorious defection, in order for him to be accepted as a prominent church leader.

The person who reorganized the gospel in order to set in the insert of the adulterous woman, and the other insert about Peter, was likely to be a placating church person of the early second century eager to accommodate both the men and the women in the community, and the personnel of the greater church. About this time the hierarchy was coming into being, and attempting to assert its organizational authority on matters of faith and morals. The style of the church person, X-9, is a little clumsy, visible in John 20:10. He gets rid of the disciples by having them simply go home (at such an earth shaking moment, too). He is copying transitional type phrases as found in sections of the Old Testament.9 He inserts the pericope on the adulterous woman of John 8 in about the same manner, by having the participants in the previous action, all go home (John 7:53).

X-10 states the purpose of the gospel at what was at some point in time, its original ending (John 20:30-31).10 This person may also be the author of the letters, X-5. John's gospel most likely ended at John 20:31.

Chapter 21 is some sort of an appendix, added on to the original body of the gospel.11 Please read John 21:1-25. This relates the after-death appearance of Jesus on the shore of Lake Tiberius. Seven disciples decide to go fishing; they are Peter, Nathaniel, Thomas, the two sons of Zebedee, and two "others." "Others" usually refers to unnamed women. We know that one of the people in the boat was the disciple Jesus loved because this beloved disciple plays an important part in the rest of the chapter. It probably was not the man John, son of Zebedee. In this chapter we are given more church concerns, stating the primacy of Peter, yet keeping the shadowy figure of the beloved disciple right there in the picture. The original story of the appearance of Jesus by the seashore, may be material from X-2, but its redactor, X-11, has brought aboard Resurrection, Eucharist, the restoration to discipleship of the denier Peter, and emphasized the importance


 

of the disciple whom Jesus loved.

X-12, who may be X-11 as his Greek vocabulary is similar, is the author of the conclusion (John 21:24, 25), the major part of which we have already discussed as a most important clue to our Whodunit, "This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down, and we know that his testimony is true." Can X-12 be referring to X-1 or X-2? Perhaps X-12 doesn't really know who the beloved disciple is.

As suggested above, some of these X-author/editors are duplicates, and other contributors may have been left out of our discussion through ignorance, but this start at sorting of information is necessary if we are to sleuth out the beloved disciple.

9.2 Disciples and Rabbis

One thing we have to investigate more thoroughly in dissecting John 21:24, is the word disciple. To do this properly, let's think about the word chairman in the year 1900. A dictionary of that date would define chairman as a man who chaired meetings. About 1940 a dictionary would define chairman as a person who chaired meetings. In 1960 a dictionary would add on in its listings under chairman, a second word chairwoman, as an additional help to understanding the morphology of the word chairman. In 1980 you would have the word chairman, and further down the page there would be separate listings for each of the words chairwoman and chairperson.12 Our language is a living thing, reflecting changes in our social customs and in our historical happenings. Our language is also a force that often binds us to outmoded customs, to constricted viewpoints, and to stereotypical interpretations.

As it is with the English word chairman, so it is with the Greek word disciple. In the year 30 AD all disciples were supposedly men by definition.13 In the year 33 AD Jesus' disciples could easily have been both men and women, but there was no word to distinguish a male disciple from a female disciple, other than calling her a female disciple, as people in 1940 would describe a lady chairman or a lady postman. The only New Testament use of the word disciple as referring to a woman (namely Tabitha) is in Acts 9:36 written about 90+ AD. A new word had been invented with proper feminine endings that combined the thought that this person Tabitha was both a disciple and a woman. In her work Luke written about the same time as Acts, Lucy uses the custom of the earlier time about which she was writing (30 AD) and calls the women "followers" of Jesus (Luke 8:1-3). There is the possibility that when Lucy wrote of 50 AD as in Acts, she set down a word that she knew was in use in the later period. It is also possible that a later copyist of Lucy's work, recognizing the name Tabitha as


 

feminine, set in the word mathetria which didn't come into prominent use until much later. Mark 15:40 written in 70+ AD also refers to Mary and her friends as "women followers" to distinguish them from the male disciples.

Because there were feminine Christian disciples of Jesus, people found that they needed a new word in their language. They took the masculine word disciple (the Greek word in anglicized letters being mathetes) and put a feminine ending onto it. We find this feminine Greek word for disciple in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter written about 150 AD:— "Now early on the Lord's day Mary Magdalene a disciple (feminine mathetria) of the Lord - which being afraid because of the Jews ... had not done those things which women are accustomed to do" (for their beloved dead). We see that there is a development in the word disciple during the time of early Christianity. There now was a special single word that meant female disciple, rather than having the need to designate that a woman was the person behind the male noun.

The Greek language differs from our English language in that all modifying words associated with a noun, have to refer back to that noun and take on the gender of that noun. English nouns do not contain male and female designations, so we are not accustomed to this practice. We can see it in other European languages such as Spanish and French which carry over from the Latin and Greek this agreement of noun, modifiers, and pronouns which refer back to the noun.

In Jesus' time, the Greek pronouns and verbs that were associated with the male word disciple would all be of masculine gender even though the disciple were a female. Disciples studying with a rabbi were assumed to be men, and a condition of their discipleship was that they were to carry on the thought of their rabbi. As women could not legally witness, they could not legally carry on these thoughts. The rabbinate of the school of Moses, was to carry on the thought of Moses. It is not just the first generation disciple, but the disciples of that disciple, and so on, so that in John 9:28 we have the teachers of the Jews, many generations away from Moses, claiming, "We are Moses' disciples!" In Acts 9:25 we hear about the disciples of Paul. Disciples are to keep alive the thought of their teacher. It is questionable if the task can be performed perfectly by any human. Moses' disciples warped his teachings. Paul's thoughts on women came out a little differently through the mouth of his follower who wrote in I Timothy 2, and set the insert in I Corinthians 14:34-35 (which does not jibe with Paul's thought in I Corinthians 11). Finally, what have we Christians done to Christianity? What are the teachings of Jesus that we are to transmit to others?


 

How do we perform this task? Do we attach more importance to symbols and liturgies than to Jesus' observation that God is love?

Most teachers today are sought after by their students if they have a good reputation. We hear students saying, "I want to get So-and-So for philosophy. He doesn't give any term paper." Today's students pick their teachers. In first century Palestine Jesus picked the students he wanted. He called his disciples, whomever he wished. We hear about the Twelve. We hear about others, such as Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38) and Cleopas (Luke 24:18). We hear that there are those who do not choose to answer the call, as they have married a wife, or purchased a field (Luke 14:18-20).

When a person accepted the call to discipleship, he entered into a very special relationship with his rabbi. There were certain guidelines that were to be observed. The only proper attitude of the disciple to the master was one of obedience, reverence, and love. The rabbi assembled his disciples around him in a rabbinic circle, where the privileged position was the spot at the master's feet reserved for that student who best assimilated the teachings. We note that Paul "sat at the feet of Gamaliel" (Acts 22:3) as the prize student of that excellent teacher.

The rabbi's teachings or formal explanations, as exemplified in Matthew 5 and the spiral discourses in John, were to be passed on or witnessed to others. The word witness is very important here. As women could not legally witness, they could not legally be disciples. Also, one man would not be able to witness. Two men were legally required to witness together. There would be more likelihood of two getting the teaching correct. The Holy Spirit can work effectively when two or three discuss together. Thus we have Jesus sending his disciples out two by two (Luke 10:1). This was the customary way to proceed. In our quest for the woman's place in this performance, could we consider that Jesus may have disdained certain biases in his society and sent out both men and women?

Women were usually by-passed as disciples, not only because they couldn't legally witness, but because of the general position of women in the Jewish society. From the viewpoint of the patriarchal priesthood, women were considered to be unfit for the work of teaching or learning. There is one historical exception that proved this rule. Beruria, who was the daughter of Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradion and the wife of Rabbi Meir, was admitted to the circle of rabbis and allowed to express herself equally with her male counterparts about 150 AD.14

For purposes of illustration, we might compare the rabbi and his circle of disciples in Judaism to a present day teacher and the students in his


 

class. The classroom situation is different, the ages of student and teacher today vary, but there are certain norms that we observe today, and there were certain norms that were observed in the time of Jesus. In a college philosophy class today you will find a teacher with specific qualifications, whose students are usually younger than he, and are there for the purpose of acquiring particular career abilities. They may ask the teacher to come home with them for dinner, but he would certainly never approach them and tell them that they should fix his evening meal, as a rabbi had a right to do in Judaism. It was accepted for Jesus to invite himself to the home of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5) and to tell his disciples to prepare the Passover meal (Luke 22:8), but he was going beyond proper bounds when he asked his students to bring him a donkey (Matthew 21:1-3). Students were not required to supply transportation. His disciples obeyed him in this, not as his students, but in their belief that he was the Messiah. In the ordinary rabbi-disciple relationship, Jesus would have to go after his own donkey.15

The gravest breach of discipleship was desertion of the rabbi by the disciple. Today students drop courses with no qualms whatsoever, but, in Judaism, desertion made the disciple no longer fit to be a witness. This rupture of their important relationship by all the male disciples of Jesus (who forsook him and fled according to Matthew 26:56) and especially Peter who refused to witness for him and denied him three times (Matthew 26:69-75) made all these men legally incapable of witnessing. They were failures. They did not graduate. A disciple's proper duty was proclaimed by Peter in Mark 14:29, "Even though all forsake you, I will never forsake you!"

Jesus' women followers did not forsake him. Although they were women, their legal status as witnesses may have been better than that of deserting men. A very important question at the death of Rabbi Jesus must have been, "Who is more qualified to carry on his teaching, the women or the men?" Although most rabbis did not have women in their retinue, Jewish culture in the time of Jesus was inclining to more freedom for the female as a result of Hellenistic influence. Due to this slight warm-up in the treatment of the female, it may have been possible for the women followers of Jesus to be accepted as witnesses of the truths that Jesus taught.

When a hopeful doctor fails the medical exam for his state, he is not allowed to practice there. So it was with deserting disciples of a rabbi; they were not allowed to preach the master's message. They were in a lesser category for their time, than spoiled priests are today. Peter in particular was disenfranchised. He had failed the course. Such a "spoiled" disciple,


 

by rabbinical tradition, might recover his place, only by becoming a student of a disciple who had remained faithful. But the disciples had forsaken their master and fled (Matthew 26:56). To be reinstated as followers of Jesus, the men would have to become disciples of the women who had not denied their teacher. The gospel readings lead us to believe that only the women were faithful to Jesus. Thus in order to be reinstated, the men would have to rid themselves of their Jewish prejudices against female rabbis, and temporarily accept one of these women as their rabbi and as true bearer of the truths of Jesus. In studying under this woman and learning from her, they would be able to renew their dedication to the teaching of Jesus. The women followers of Jesus were the tenuous thread through which the restoration of the men as disciples of Jesus, was possible. When Jesus appeared to recommission his male friends (John 21:2), the women were very much on the scene as unnamed disciples who were useful instruments to this proceeding.

Is there more than one reason for Peter being called Son of John three times in John 21:15-17? Disciples were called the "sons" of their rabbi. If the interconnecting disciple were a woman named Joanna, Jesus may have been reinstating Peter to discipleship as a Son of Joanna.

9.3 The Beloved Disciple as Mary Magdalene?

Now that we know that up to about 100 AD the word disciple and the pronouns that referred back to it, could only be male, let's go back to the Bible again and see what the Gospel of John has to say about the beloved disciple and the other disciple.

With our new knowledge, since the male or female pronoun is not distinguished in Greek, we can translate John 21:24 as possibly, "This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down and we know that her testimony is true." There were many women followers of Jesus, and when the term other is used, it means other than male. Some women followers mentioned are Martha, Salome, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, Susanna, and Mary of Magdala. Only one of these earned the title of beloved. Upon careful consideration we find that the most likely female candidate to fit this possibility of beloved witness is Mary Magdalene.

The disciple that Jesus loved is mentioned as being at the Last Supper (John 13:23). If this were Mary Magdalene, the story describes her as reclining next to Jesus. It is possible that there were women present at this supper. At special feasts that were patriarchal in tendency, the women would be in the vicinity, because they would be expected to get the meal. They


 

may have eaten their share in a removed corner, or in a separate room, but they may also have eaten at the table with the men.16 Jewish culture at the time of Jesus had been infiltrated with certain Greek and Roman freedoms, so that we are given historical instances of a hostess presiding at her husband's table, and shortly after the time of Christ, we have the female rabbi, Beruria, being part of a rabbinic circle.17

When John 13:23 speaks of the beloved disciple sitting in the favored spot next to Jesus at supper, it's entirely possible that the author is speaking of Mary Magdalene as the disciple who best understood her rabbi's teaching. As honored friend of the host and as the superior student, she could well have been acting out the part of hostess at her master's table. That this beloved disciple sat next to Jesus at the Last Supper, was probably a fact set down by women to emphasize to later generations that Jesus had no sexist bias. Unfortunately, this important piece of information has been misinterpreted century after century. Male artists have compounded the misinformation with their all male, Last Supper masterpieces, which are beautiful works of art, but which may not represent "gospel truth."

Early church fathers, believing that Mary Magdalene was a terribly sinful woman, because of other misinterpretations, wouldn't want to believe that Jesus would allow such a tainted woman to get near him. Because they had trouble treating women as equitable human beings, they supposed that Jesus wouldn't know how to act in the company of women. Jesus loved all people, as God loves all people. Jesus loved prostitutes and sinners. Some male church leaders are afraid to love prostitutes or to get near them or to allow Communion to be given to them. As Jesus knows all things (John 21:17), we must trust that he knows also how to best draw out the good in all people, and that he can sit next to any woman at a supper table and make it a salvational situation, not just for that particular woman but for all the other men and women with whom that woman may interact.

Mary Magdalene wasn't as sinful as we have been led to believe. We are told that Jesus cast seven devils out of her (Luke 8:2). This may be a very positive statement. About 100 AD there were Gnostic believers of all shades and colors. Gnostic has to do with knowing, and these religious groups thought they knew all sorts of secret knowledge. Different Gnostic groups had different beliefs. One belief that was rather common divided the world into the pure and the lustful. However, they didn't use the words pure and lustful, to describe these opposing dualities. They used the words male and female. As it was a patriarchal society, the male was the pure, superior being, and the female (as misbegotten male in a formula deriving


 

from Aristotle) was the male gone wrong. If you called a man male, you meant that he was pure and truthful and perhaps ascetic. If you called him female, he was lustful and engaged in sexual relationships with women and probably wouldn't be a good bet to preach the gospel. Calling a man female was a shortened form of saying that he ran after females, and was frequently to be found in the company of the "wrong kind" of females.

Besides confusing the adjectives, these male-female connotations also contributed to further patriarchy and to non-egalitarianism. To be a female was to be associated with a tempting and sinful lot. What did the word male mean when applied to women? Back in 100 AD if you said that a woman was male, it was highly complimentary. It meant that she was probably ascetic, pure, and truthful, and a good candidate to instruct other Christians in the gospel.

In one of the apocryphal gospels Jesus tells the other disciples that he will make Mary Magdalene male.18 This sounds a little hairy, but if you understand the background vocabulary, you quickly see that Mary was being made into a pure and truthful disciple, worthy to perform all services for her fellow Christians. If you are going to make someone pure, there are various ways to describe that action. Instead of saying that Jesus took away Mary's femaleness or lustfulness or impurity, the author of Luke 8:2 chose to say that Jesus totally destroyed all the negative vibrations within Mary, that Jesus cast out all possible enemies that would keep her from being less than whole. Luke says that seven devils had gone out of Mary surnamed Magdalene. As "seven devils" means all possible devils, this leaves Mary as the one wholly fulfilled disciple of Jesus. It doesn't necessarily mean at all, that she was the world's worst sinner.

Some would connect Mary Magdalene with the adulteress story of John 8 because she anointed Jesus as Messiah in Luke 7:36-50 and is described as a sinner in that incident. The following indicates that these two women most likely are two separate individuals. The synoptics have taken a different slant than John on the anointing story. A hasty reading of their versions might tend to make us believe that the woman with the jar of ointment was a worse sinner than the rest of us (Matthew 26:1-18; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50). As Luke describes this woman as a sinner, we might want to conclude that her sin was adultery, and tie her in with the adulteress in John 8. It seems that the sin of women that patriarchs abhor the most is that of adultery. Other sins pale besides this that is considered a most odious defect. This is a sin of which men accuse women and ignore the part that the male plays. Such blaming is similar to the problem of abortion in


 

our day. What man gets accused of abortion? But every abortion is fathered (initiated) by a man. In the version by Luke describing the adulteress, we are inclined to judge the woman from the Pharisee's viewpoint, which may be a very poor spot from which to judge. He viewed the woman's past life and felt that compared to her, his life-style was pretty clean. That certainly wasn't Jesus' viewpoint. Jesus stressed the greater love of the person pouring out the ointment. For Jesus, the important thing was love. Love overcame imperfections. Jesus spoke of the woman who anointed his feet as a shining example of great love. In all of this there is no necessary connection between Mary Magdalene and the adulteress of John 8. John's gospel actually gives two separate incidents to keep us straight:— one story tells of Jesus humane treatment of an adulteress, the other story tells of the anointing by Mary Magdalene.

Thus as Mary Magdalene was not necessarily a great sinner, but an example of great love, the main author of John, X-2, might be describing Mary at the Last Supper as the most perfect disciple of Jesus, in the privileged place at the table (John 13:23). When there were reclining couches, the privileged spot was towards your host's breast, rather than towards his back. The best student deserved this honored placement.

We have a second confirming example of Mary in a privileged spot. When a rabbi was teaching, his disciples sat around him on the ground. He himself was usually seated. The best student sat at the spot by his feet. Thus in Luke 10:39 we see Mary Magdalene in the privileged spot in the rabbinic circle, "at the Lord's feet." It is easy to conclude that Mary Magdalene as the beloved disciple was doubtless at table with Jesus and the other disciples in the upper room at the Last Supper, as a favorite would not be relegated to a corner.

If you are reading the incident in John 13:23-25 and being disturbed by the he pronouns, keep in mind that these pronouns are required by Greek agreement to be masculine in order to be of the same gender as the noun disciple. They do not denote the sex of the person being spoken about, but only the gender of the word disciple. A proper English translation of the Greek could just as easily say, "Simon Peter signed to her and said, `Ask who it is he means,' so leaning back on Jesus' breast she said, `Who is it, Lord?'" If the familiarity of a woman leaning on a man's breast bothers you, picture an oriental table with low couches, and observe that it is easy to make a quiet remark to someone sitting slightly behind you. You do not necessarily come into physical contact with them. The description is intended to let us know that Mary had the opportunity to speak to Jesus


 

without others hearing the exchange. Our seating arrangements at formal dinners today have ways of honoring esteemed guests.

9.4 The Witnesses at The High Priest's Palace

Jesus and his disciples left the scene of the Last Supper, and headed for a garden in the Kedron Valley. These disciples may have been both men and women. If there were women at the Last Supper, these women would not have been left behind unless they were assigned to kitchen clean-up. One of the male disciples, Simon Peter, carried a sword. The action in the garden was a little bit bloody, but it is faithfully reported in John 18. Any one of the disciples might have told the story of the arrest. The soldiers took Jesus to Annas and Caiphas, and Peter and another disciple followed behind. As this other disciple is nameless, she may be a woman. As she is not called the beloved disciple, she may be another woman than Mary Magdalene. This other disciple was known to the High Priest, and followed Jesus into the palace. This other disciple may be Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the High Priest's steward (Luke 8:3). The wife of your steward would certainly be allowed into your dwelling without question. If she chose to bring a woman friend with her, that person would also be admitted. If she spoke to the doorkeeper, and told her to let Peter in, the maid servant at the door would be glad to accommodate her. The entrance of Peter introduces the questioning of Peter and his denials of Jesus, yet no one questioned the other disciple, or got a denial from him or her. If this other disciple were a male, he would risk death by witnessing for his rabbi. If this other disciple were the woman Joanna, she would not be considered a worthwhile witness. It would not have been important that she was a hearer of Jesus' word, because as a woman, her testimony didn't matter. An interesting fact about the Hebrew name Joanna is that in some Biblical translations, it is the same in the masculine as the feminine. The male name Joanna is used in the genealogy of Luke 3:27. It would be very easy to confuse a female follower of this name with a male disciple.

A second female possibility for the witness reporting the scene at the High Priest's palace, would be Mary Magdalene. We may be dealing with two different people when we speak of the other disciple and the beloved disciple. Joanna may be termed the other disciple, as a word to distinguish her from the male disciples, or the son of Zebedee. We might have Mary Magdalene being called the beloved disciple because she was the best student of the rabbi Jesus. She also may be called the other disciple because in writing about a woman, due to the rules of propriety the woman's name was oftentimes not mentioned. At times the beloved and the other may 


 

be the same individual.

9.5 The Beloved Disciple at The Foot of The Cross

The soldiers took Jesus from the High Priest's palace to the judicial court of Pilate. Certain things were said and done. The crowd asked for Barabbas. If the disciples were in the crowd, wouldn't they have rooted for their master? It is highly likely that they were not in the crowd. As witnessing males, the men were liable to questioning and to prosecution, and would not be anxious to show their faces or express an opinion, in fear for their lives. Yet this scene at the judicial court is recorded by a witness. Who was the agonizing disciple hiding in the crowd? Who was the court recorder? A woman could have been present without risking her life, as she would not qualify as a witness in legal proceedings, and would not be asked by the authorities to give testimony against her master. It must have been a woman who heard and recorded the words, "You would have no power over me, if it hadn't been given you from above"(John 19:11). It must have been a woman who saw that from that moment, Pilate was anxious to free Jesus, but that the politics of the situation made it expedient for Jesus to be crucified.

This star reporter followed him to the place of crucifixion. Our reporter may well have been Mary Magdalene, because she is mentioned as being at the foot of the cross (John 19:25). "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's relative, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala." There is no mention of a male disciple John. All the male disciples had forsaken their master and fled (Matthew 26:56). John's gospel does not mention the name of Joanna as being at the crucifixion, but Mark 15:40-41 and Matthew 27:55 mention that there were many other women at Calvary. This other or female reporter could easily be Joanna or Mary Magdalene.

The next verse (John 19:26) brings back the name, beloved disciple. The apocryphal gospels have some interesting thoughts on the disciple whom Jesus loved. In The Gospel of Philip when Jesus is asked why he loves Mary so much, Jesus' indirect answer is that she is the manifestation of Sophia, or Holy Wisdom.19 In The Gospel of Mary Peter says to Mary, "Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of the women. Tell us the words of the Savior that you remember."20 Again, Mary is the favorite, perhaps because of her grasp of Jesus' teachings, as the disciples ask her to repeat those teachings. Further on in the apocryphal Gospel of Mary, speaking of Mary Magdalene, Levi says, "Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why he loved her more than us."21 Jesus who could look into hearts loved Mary Magdalene the most of his disciples as she was


 

his most comprehending and understanding pupil.

In John 19:26 Jesus looked down from the cross and saw his best student, Mary Magdalene, and his mother Mary. We must keep in mind that disciple is a male word and likewise the pronouns that refer to it. To his mother, Jesus said, "Woman, behold your son!" It is the duty of a Jewish son to care for the aged mother. Mary Magdalene, present at this death scene, is given this "son" role. Jesus' words may be interpreted as, "Woman, behold the person who will support you." Jesus is designating to his mother that she is to accept this female disciple as the person who will care for her in her old age. Perhaps Jesus believed, that in spite of the contrary cultural notions of his day, a female could take care of an aged parent as well as a male. Jesus then turned to Mary Magdalene, and said, "Behold your mother." The final statement says that the disciple took Jesus' mother to the disciple's own house. The pronoun his modifying house, refers back to the male word disciple and not to the gender of the person involved. We have often had this scene interpreted as Jesus giving his mother to the whole human race in the person of a male disciple. It is possible that this scene should be correctly reinterpreted as Mary becoming our mother through the person of a female disciple. All of us, male and female, are to have concern for Mary as we would care for an aging friend or relative, and Mary will be a mother to all of us.

9.6 Mary Magdalene at The Tomb

Chapter 20 of John is liable to upset all this theory that Mary Magdalene and the beloved disciple are one and the same, because they are mentioned here side by side, as two separate people. However, because chapter 20 has an insert in verses 2-11, we will have to examine the situation more carefully. This insert appears to be traditional Johannine material, woven together with another piece of Johannine material, in an attempt to make one consistent story out of two threads. This scribal interweaving can be compared to an error in translation. If many translators combine their efforts, the Holy Spirit has greater opportunity to make use of talent, and we are presented with a much more effective translation. If scribes and theologians consult with one another asking for guidance of the Spirit, we can understand more clearly the message which God is giving to us in his Word. If the person who made this insert had had greater opportunity to consult carefully with those around him in the community, the Holy Spirit would have been able to work more effectively through him. His attempt at combining two separate pericopes could be compared to a less than perfect translation of available material due to a fundamental lack of knowledge.


 

We must not be distressed with translations and interpretations that are consistent with the culture of the time in which they were expressed, that do not fit in perfectly with the knowledge of our time. The Holy Spirit working through the minds and hearts of men, can be trusted to tell us all that is necessary for our salvation. In John 20 not only was the vital message of the resurrection preserved for us, but we are given two separate traditional stories that we can disentangle from each other to give fuller revelation. Perhaps it is not too late for the Bible scholars of today to labor with this early scribe's endeavor and to come up with a more comprehensive structure and a more fulfilling interpretation of John chapter 20. Perhaps this is an opportunity to polish and hone the wonderful tool that is the Bible, in order to make it more effective for the salvation of humankind, both men and women.

The fact of the empty tomb is a very important tenet of Christianity, and for early Christianity, it was absolutely necessary to have two male witnesses to ascertain this fact. All the gospels agree that Mary Magdalene was the first at the tomb and the first to see the resurrected Lord. Jesus appeared to her first, as she had maintained her rabbi-disciple relationship with him. It may have been only through her belief in his words and her eager witnessing, that the others could be restored to right relationship with Jesus. Peter and the male disciples knew this and knew the necessity of having a disciple (even though she were a woman) who had not deserted the rabbi, to carry on the continuity of his teachings. Although we feel today this is an unnecessary approach, we carry along this same notion in our idea of apostolic succession. Those elite priests of today's church who feel that their ordination has been an unbroken succession of blessing hands straight through from the time of Jesus, might not want to believe that a woman's hands may have bridged a regrettable gap.

Second generation churchmen were inclined to dismiss this rupture between Jesus and his male followers. They did not want to take the illegal word of a woman witness. They wanted to believe that the men could witness for Jesus, and they chose not to understand that Peter and the others of the Twelve had accepted the respected disciple, Mary Magdalene, as temporary rabbi, or leader, to re-establish them in the Jesus tradition. Mary was the connecting link, the first feminine church leader. The second generation Christian communities forgot the rabbi-disciple breach, and looked only for the established male legal witness for the resurrection. They were no longer in a time period that encouraged the greater freedom of women. Hebrew culture, especially after the disastrous times around 70 AD, had a


 

tendency to put women back in the home and under the patriarchal thumb, so as to better "protect" them from the violence brewed up by other patriarchs. Times were such that the women were willing to be protected in this manner.

These second generation church people felt a necessity to have two witnessing males in the Gospel of John, affirming the empty tomb. One of them inserted the material of John 20:2-11 in what he thought was a logical place, in order to tie together two traditional pieces of church material. His beliefs are set down to emphasize the primacy of Peter in the church, yet at the same time the author has heard that there was another disciple that "outran" Peter. He assumes it is a male, because his generation now had a word for a feminine disciple, and he may not have realized that thirty years earlier there was no such word,— that in the Judaic culture when these traditional pieces of material were written, the male word for disciple had to service both genders. The person making the insertion may have sincerely believed that he had a piece of traditional material that stated there was a male disciple that outran Peter. The Holy Spirit may very well have been working effectively through this man's lack of understanding, as the existence of the church and the important work of carrying the gospel message may well have depended at that time on the authority of accepted male leaders.

When we examine chapter 20, we find that verse 1 starts off with original material. Mary Magdalene is at the tomb weeping. Next we have some of the inserted material. The inserter takes Mary Magdalene from the tomb and has her going to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, not realizing that the other disciple may be Mary Magdalene herself. If we treat this other as Mary Magdalene, we can say that the physical impossibility of Mary Magdalene running to tell herself about the disappearance of the body could be due to the excusable ignorance of the inserter and to the will of the Holy Spirit. Certain beliefs were necessary for the church to function well in the second century. On the other hand, the woman Joanna may have been the companion of Peter in this incident; the phrase the one Jesus loved may have been an editorial mistake. If we are going to mistrust the editor of the insert, we can easily believe in more than one misinterpretation. In the insert of John 20:2-10 Peter shows himself to be capable and assertive by entering the tomb first. The woman, or other disciple held back, but then she went inside the tomb and saw and believed. We must remember in translating this, that the word disciple is masculine, and any pronouns that refer back to it, are masculine. Any he


 

pronouns that refer to the second disciple must be changed to she. The insert is tied to the previous action at the tomb, by having Mary run to Peter and tell him what she tells the angels in a later verse (John 20:13). We must keep in mind that the other disciple in this section of John may refer to Mary Magdalene or Joanna. This particular female disciple is referred to specifically as the other disciple in verses 3-10.

From verse 3 on, if we replace "other" with "woman," the insert will read in the following manner:

"So Peter set out with the [woman] disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the [woman] disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; she bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following, now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head: this was not with the cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the [woman] disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; she saw and she believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead. The disciples then went home again."

The Gospel of Luke appears to confirm that Peter was the only male disciple to run to the tomb, after being informed by the women that the tomb was empty (Luke 24:12). In Luke 24:10 the main women at the tomb who entered into the tomb (Luke 24:3) were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women. The scriptural insertion in John 20 could be emphasizing early church concerns. It could be interpreted to state the equality of men and women in the service of Christ, as it speaks of a man and a woman running together to the tomb, and coming to belief together. Both men and women are equally capable of loving Christian service and of witnessing to the love that is in Jesus.

Unfortunately, down through the centuries, having absorbed patriarchal dispositions from other cultures, many in the structured church have continued to be blind to the effective leadership ability of women, and have refused to see certain interpretations which seem to be available in the Gospel of John. Now, eighteen centuries later, when scholarly exegesis has reached appropriate levels, believing Christians should consider new possibilities of interpretation. We should take off our patriarchal glasses, wipe our enculturated eyes, and take a long clear look at the shocking possibility that Mary Magdalene may well have been the first pope. We should consider that the writer of the second Epistle of John was neither the male disciple John or using the word sister as a descriptive name for the church community,


 

but was a female presbyter or priest writing to another female presbyter or priest. As Jesus freely accepted women into the circle of his disciples, those men who claim to be his followers should also be accepting of women, and should not callously dismiss them from service in the priesthood by saying that the shape of their bodies is unacceptable. What does the shape of one's body have to do with being able to lead others to Christ? Indeed, Jesus may not have visualized the structured priesthood that we use today to carry his message; he may have looked into the future and seen all men and women as prophets, priests, and facilitators, all lovingly guiding each other to fulfillment in God's kingdom. Those who accept responsibility to be prophets, priests, and rulers concerned with the renewal of the earth will not be rejected.

9.7 The Exalted Position of Women in John's Gospel

In John's gospel we are not only given the exalted example of the prize-winning disciple in the person of Mary Magdalene, but also the praise of another woman at a well. The story in John 4:1-42 is a rather unkind putdown of the male disciples. We are shown a low caste woman, probably a slight grade above a public prostitute, who understands immediately when Jesus speaks to her of living water. She leaves her material concerns, represented by the water jug, and rushes off to proclaim the gospel in the near-by town. The town's people believe her, and come thronging to the well. She is a successful evangelist.

On the other hand, in the same story, there are a group of males who go to the same town with the material concern of purchasing bread. Although they supposedly know a great deal more about Jesus than the woman, they say nothing about him to the townsfolk, and return to the well, probably gorging themselves with their purchased food on the way back. They fail to understand when Jesus tells them that he has bread to eat that they don't know about. Can't you just see a woman relating this tale to another woman! It is a story told by a woman for other women, for a man would never have seen the situation in that manner. A man would have been terribly reluctant to hold up a common woman as an exemplary evangelist and to portray the males so slightingly.

This gospel has Peter proclaiming that Jesus is the Holy One of God (John 6:69), and that is one of the reasons for the church doctrine of the primacy of Peter. What does the church do when the same gospel has a woman saying, "I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world" (John 11:27)? Martha said this, but no one has yet insisted that she be considered the main pillar of the church. Her state


 

ment has been minimized to such an extent that we have almost forgotten that it is there. We should emphasize the primacy of Martha as equal to the primacy of Peter.

The individual, Samuel the Prophet, who anointed the rulers of Israel, King Saul and King David (I Samuel 10:1 and 16:13), was considered to be a great prophet of the Lord. How do we consider the person who anointed the Messiah, the greatest ruler the Lord ever sent to Israel? Surely that person had to be one of the most notable prophets the world has produced! Mary Magdalene was this important anointer (John 12:1-8). Again, it seems that the male followers of Jesus failed to understand the importance of this anointing. Do we dare to consider this favorite student of the rabbi, the one who best absorbed his teachings, as the corner stone of the early church? Her name means exalted, elevated, magnificent. How have we managed to downgrade her so thoroughly?

As another example of the humble female, we could look at Saint Bernadette of Nevers. This woman insisted that she herself was the world's greatest sinner. It seems that the Magdalene must have had the same type of humility, and perhaps she repeated this phrase in her community and to her fellow church members, for succeeding generations seem to feel compelled to associate Mary Magdalene with the worst in human nature. Instead of imitating her virtues, and recognizing her importance as set down in the Gospel of John, we point our fingers at her deridingly.

9.8 The Beloved Disciple in John 21

John chapter 21 is an added-on chapter. The original conclusion to the gospel is in chapter 20:30, 31. The scene of chapter 21 is the sea shore. Seven disciples went fishing and they caught 153 fish. The author of this chapter of the Gospel of John is great on numbers. The number seven might mean that there were all the disciples present that were necessary, for God's loving purposes. In a similar manner, having seven sacraments in the church, says that these sacraments contain all that is necessary for each individual to lead a good Christian life. Seven disciples could be interpreted as saying that from this group would come all the evangelizing necessary to Christianize the whole world. The totality of humanity is represented by the 153 fish as it was believed at that time that there was a total of 153 species of fish in the sea.

The names of the disciples are Peter, Nathaniel, Thomas, the two sons of Zebedee, and two more of his disciples. It is strange that five disciples are mentioned explicitly, and two are just thrown in to give readers long distant from the scene a chance to exercise imagination. If we believe


 

that these two disciples are women, we can understand why their names aren't mentioned. It was not customary to mention the names of women. Among this group in the boat is the disciple whom Jesus loved. The apocryphal Gospel of Philip,22 in saying that Mary Magdalene is the person Jesus loves most, allows us to believe that this Mary is one of the nameless people in the boat. If we take off our patriarchal glasses and test out this assumption of Mary Magdalene as one of the women disciples in the boat, then the pericope goes along very smoothly.

It is related that the seven disciples were in a boat, and that they saw a man on the shore. Mary Magdalene, as the most astute disciple of the Rabbi Jesus, informed Peter, "It is the Lord!" Mary didn't jump into the water, even though she was the first to recognize Jesus; it would have been unseemly for a woman. If the disciple who recognized Jesus were John, a man, it is possible that he could have jumped into the water to reach Jesus first. Fishermen can usually swim. Women weren't expected to be swimmers. They had their private spots to gather by the lakeside, where they heard the gossip and washed their clothes.

This jumping into the water may also have theological representations. The water may represent the willingness and the ability to proclaim the Gospel message. It is reported that Peter had practically nothing on. This may speak for his physical condition, and it also may say something about his relationship with his rabbi. He may have been completely devoid of dignity after his denial of the Master. He was ready and willing to proclaim the Gospel, to "jump into the water," but he still had not mended the breach in his rabbi-disciple relationship. This rupture evidently was healed after the Eucharistic meal of bread and fish reported in verses 9 to 13.

Peter and Jesus took a short walk, and Peter was commissioned to feed the flock of the Lord. Peter looked back and saw the beloved disciple. He inquired, "What about this disciple, Lord?" Jesus replied, "If I want that disciple to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me" (John 21:21-22, Jerusalem Bible). Could this be a poor translation? With a slightly different emphasis, we might have a more effective translation as, "If I want that disciple to be the undergirding, supporting force in my church, what does it matter to you?"

In the apocryphal gospels, there is always a comradely rivalry between Mary and Peter. Peter has the dominant male place in the church, but he is cognizant of the particular affection that Jesus has for Mary. In these few verses of John 21, we are given a notion of woman's place in the early church, the difference of the discipleship of men and women, Jesus' love


 

for both men and women, and a glimpse of God's loving process working both in men and in women.

Peter, the man, knows that Jesus knows all things, including Peter's tendency to be jealous of Jesus' equal treatment of womankind. Peter agrees to feed all the sheep of the Lord, but in asking about the beloved disciple Mary, he also wants to know what the Lord plans for womankind. What is to be their position in the church? Are they to be active church leaders?

We might interpret this pericope as Jesus saying that womankind is to follow along in the church until Jesus comes. We could interpret this to mean that woman is to be "protected" by the Peters of the church until the time of the fullness of the Kingdom, when the totality of Jesus' Spirit will be with all peoples. When the Lord's Spirit is fully with humankind, men and women will be empathetic and understanding of one another. Men will see that women, too, are created in God's image, and can serve the Lord and bring his truth to fellow creatures. Perhaps we help God's kingdom to come, by acting our parts worthily. Perhaps if we give equal love and consideration to all the oppressed, we will suddenly find that God's kingdom is here and now.

Our pericope opened with seven disciples in a boat. Two were women. The story shows us that women are to be considered as some of the necessary disciples that will Christianize all the people in the world. All peoples are represented by the catch of 153 fish (John 21:11). It is emphasized that the net does not break. The net may represent the structure used to evangelize the world. It may be speaking of the Christian church.

The ending of the pericope speaks of the prominence of Peter, and states that in regard to the beloved disciple Mary Magdalene, Jesus had not said to Peter, that this one would not die, but, "if I want this one to stay behind until I come." Perhaps this pericope is intended to be taken allegorically, that, indeed, Mary Magdalene would die a natural death, but that the fulfillment of womankind would take place when the Spirit of Jesus permeated the hearts of all humankind.

Can we look beyond Hebraic culture, and European culture, and even past recent American culture, and see a process God working through history, seeking the fulfillment of the human race? How are humans to be fulfilled? How can men and women support and affirm one another? It certainly does not happen when they put each other down, when they condemn or misuse a weaker sex or race, or when they fashion weapons to destroy each other.

The apocryphal gospels, those early church writings not accepted as


 

a part of the biblical canon, also see a time when women will be treated as equal to men. Like The Gospel of John, The Gospel of Thomas ends with a Mary-Peter-Jesus pericope.23 Jesus' disciples ask him, "When will the kingdom come?" Jesus replies, "It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying `Here it is' or `There it is'. Rather, the kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it." Then Peter said, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life." Jesus replied, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven." We must keep in mind that making male is a Gnostic term for becoming a good and righteous person, while making female is a term for being lustful and greedy. Using this making male term is the way our apocryphal author cites the equality of women and men in being counted among the righteous.

God made women equal to men, but we should recognize certain differences. Women are often timid, due to the teaching and training of a patriarchal society. It was necessary to have a dominant male to lead the church through the autocratic Roman culture in the days of its formation. A woman, speaking timidly, would not have been believed. There was also the problem of the non-legality of female witness. Even a very gifted woman would have to follow along in the shadow of the protective male.

Today in America we are coming to see that the gentle motherly guidance of a woman can be just as effective as that of a man, in leading others to the love and forgiveness that is in Christ. As we look to Christ's second coming, towards the time when the Spirit will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9), will the men and women here in America and all over the earth treat each other with mutual respect and love? To do this they need the example of a loving church that shows no discrimination among its members or in its leadership selection. All religions in order to be relevant in a world serviced by mass communication, should emphasize the equality that a loving God displays towards all subsets of humanity.

The Koran in surah 81:27 also has a thought on the final days of creation and the rectification of the mistreatment of women:

"A reminder to creation- ....

When the sun is overthrown and the stars fall

when the girl-child that was buried alive

is asked for what sin she was slain ...."

Women in some societies are thought of as less than men. In other societies they are thought of as less than human. How can men so disregard the


 

wonderful souls and minds that are present in the females of our species? Only when religions are stripped of their shallow superstitions and divisive dogmas and come together under the unifying force of love in a caring community, will wars, discords, and power struggles have a chance of being swept into the past. When selfishness is supplanted by concern for others, then the Holy Spirit will be given room to dwell in our hearts.

The message of John 21:22 translated by the Good News Bible becomes, "If I want her to live until I come..." This is a lovely thought when applied to the female. We, as women, have the opportunity to live the true Christian life under the "guidance and protection" of the Peters of this world, until the Spirit of Jesus takes possession of all humanity. Is that time coming soon? Will the threat of nuclear war make all of us, both men and women, into God-fearers who truly have concern for other nations and other cultures and for the wonderful earth which God has given to all of us? Will the threat of destruction, encourage all of us, both men and women, to truly have Jesus in our hearts and to individually exercise our responsibilities as prophets, priests, and facilitators? Will we "live" our lives well, and be the undergirding supports of the Holy Community?

In John 21:15-19, Peter's recommissioning as disciple is indicated by his being told to "follow" Jesus. His duty is to take care of the Lord's community, and those succeeding Peter are still doing this job, which today requires both organizational ability and empathy for others. When women such as Mother Theresa of Calcutta have organizational ability and empathetic qualities equal to those of men, what should be their place in the church of today? It appears that women continue to follow behind, yet they still have the edifying opportunity of living fully Christian lives. Mother Theresa does not need the respect and admiration given to the office of an ordained priest in order to make her an effective and productive Christian.

When Christ returns as fulfilling love to the earth, in the hearts of humans who love and serve their fellow humans, there will be less need for the leadership and guidance of either Mary Magdalenes or Peters. When our world overflows with loving community, there will be little need for structures forcing us to conform. When women and men treat each other with kindness, the need for both authoritative fathers and domineering mothers, will give way to joyful acceptance of one another's differences.

9.9 Back To Whodunit? The Authors

The conclusions drawn from this discussion are varied. As I am trying to get people to see things from a less patriarchal viewpoint, I should like to set down certain admittedly biased personal perceptions about the identities of


 

the authors X-1 through X-12.

I believe that the beloved woman disciple, Mary Magdalene, was the authoress, X-1, responsible for the oral tradition, and that she may also have set down this tradition.

Before we proceed to the authors X-2 and X-3, it is necessary to publicize information about the Greek names for John and Joanna. Greek nouns are different from English nouns in that they have different endings according to whether they are subjects of the sentence, doing the action, or predicate nouns such as direct objects of the action. There are also different forms of the noun for genitive cases which would be translated "of John" and for dative cases which would be translated "for John" or "to John."

Anglicizing all the letters, if I were to say in Greek that a man John wrote a book, I would set down his name as Ioannhs. If I said that a lady Joanna wrote a book, her name would be written Ioanna. If I put my sentence in the passive, and said, "This book was written according to John," the male word would be Ioannhn. For the lady, it would be Ioannan. If I changed my statement to say, "This is the book of John," I would have to use the genitive case and for the male, the name would be Ioannou. For the woman, there would be two choices, Ioannas or Ioannhs. If I wrote the words "the gospel of John" meaning John as a female and took the second choice for the genitive case, I would have the expression "ton euaggelion tou Ioannhs." To save space, I might not have to use the words for the. I could simply set down "euaggelion Ioannhs" meaning the female name. If I used the nominative form and set down the words "John wrote this gospel" intending the male name, I could omit the words wrote this and still be using acceptable Greek. I could put the word John after the word gospel as Greek is not as particular about the word order in its sentences; they feel that with their system of gender agreements, word order is not as necessary. Thus I could use the nominative or subject form of the male word John and put it before or after the word for gospel. My phrase for the male gospel writer as subject of the sentence might be either Ioannhs euaggelion or euaggelion Ioannhs which would be perfectly correct Greek. Thus we could possibly have the same phrase for both the male and the female author, in equally correct Greek, one using the nominative form for the male (euaggelion Ioannhs) and the other the genitive form for the female (euaggelion Ioannhs). It is easy to see that there is plenty of room for error in interpretation here.

The final blow comes when the dative case is used. If I wish to say


 

that this book came by means of John, either male or female, I could use the same name Ioannhi. Keep in mind that copyists were reading hand written material, and all these possibilities of confusion may have existed. Even today when examining a New Testament in Greek, these different cases can be seen in that The Gospel According to John uses the Greek word Ioannhn, while the letters, I John, II John, and III John, use the genitive term Ioannou.

To make it even more chancy, the Greek letter eta that I have represented by the English letter h is a sound half way between the Greek epsilon e and the Greek alpha a. I could have chosen to represent it with an a, and if I did, then some of the names would sound almost identical. If one had previous misconceptions as to the sex of the author, it would be very easy to mistake names either as they were set down, or as one heard them, and to decide that the book was written by a male when in reality it may have been written by a female.24

To compound the error, we also have certain Greek nouns that are given the masculine gender in spite of the true sex of the person spoken about. All pronouns and modifiers that refer to this noun must have the same gender as the noun in spite of the sex of the individual under discussion. The noun teacher is masculine, and all feminine teachers must be spoken of as male, in the same manner as our English language gives preference to unknown persons as he rather than as she. We have already mentioned the problems with the word disciple. Other Greek nouns giving difficulty with proper interpretations as they must be treated as male, and use male modifiers, include presbyter, elder, scribe, ruler, and, of course, apostle.

Understanding the confusion that may exist between the male name John and the female name Joanna in their Greek versions, I would like to assert that a certain lady called by the Greek name Ioanna who was a first or second generation Christian in the early church, who was also a female bishop interested in establishing the sacraments, and who also was the person who wrote the Johannine epistles, may be combined in the authors X-2, X-3, X-4, X-5, and X-10. X-2 may have written down oral material; X-3 collated the majority of chapters 1 through 20; X-4 made revisions that introduced the sacraments; X-5 authored the letters; and X-10 added the original ending at John 20:30-31. There is also the possibility that X-11 who set in the sea shore story of John 21, and X-12 who vouched for the credibility of the original witness (John 21:24-25) may be this same woman. On the other hand X-12 may be a third generation follower. If we believe


 

that Mary Magdalene dictated her oral material to a younger associate, X-2 may also be Bishop Joanna.

The prologue to The Gospel of John is swirling rabbinical poetry that must have been a favorite of the Johannine community. To thoroughly investigate the origins of this prologue, we would have to go back to the Old Testament's Book of Wisdom. Thus we are unsure of the identity of X-6, but we cannot exclude the possibility of the New Testament source as Mary Magdalene.

The story of the adulteress in John 8 is a section that also popped up in an ancient edition of the Gospel of Luke. Church scribes were evidently searching for an appropriate place to put it, and settled on John's gospel. The relator of this adulteress story, X-7, may be any first generation Christian, perhaps even the adulteress herself, who certainly could know the words Jesus spoke after her accusers departed. Eusebius, a church historian in the time of Constantine, claimed that the church father Papias may have taken down this story from the lips of the adulteress.

I shall designate as X-8 the author of the insert of John 20:2-10, which describes Peter and the other disciple at the tomb. The editorial person X-9 who put in the adulteress insert of chapter 8 (related by X-7), and connected it to chapter 7 using the uninspired wording of "They all went home" (John 7:53), may be the same person who tied in the Peter insert of John 20:2-10, as the styles of the transitions used are similar. The second insert is phased out with, "The disciples then went home again."

In the Third Epistle of John the woman (X-3, X-4, X-5, X-10) complains of a gentleman named Diotrephes (III John:9, 10). This man who enjoyed being in charge of the church, refused to accept the leadership of Bishop Ioannhs (the usually accepted genitive version of the name Joanna to be used after of and also the nominative version for the male name John when used as subject), which distressed the lady very much. There is a remote possibility that the arranger, X-9, of the Peter and the adulteress inserts may also be the man complained about by the Lady Ioannhi (dative version of the female name) in III John verse 10. The person named Diotrephes according to this reading, has somehow behaved himself improperly and has said untrue things about the lady and her children. He seems to have been a organizational individual who felt it necessary to have the woman and her children act in a constrained manner, for reasons that were obvious to him. These verses in III John may give us an insight into early church gender problems.

You may consider that the witness that I am giving here, is as imperfect


 

and slanted as the Lady John considered the witness of Diotrephes. However, the Spirit spoke through Diotrephes in his day, and I believe that the Spirit also urges me today, to say certain things. I know that the Spirit is severely hampered by my limitations, but she knows how to make the best use of them. We all need each other's help. Pray earnestly and see what the Spirit wants to say through you. When we combine what the Spirit has to say through all of us, then we may get an idea of the fuller message, and it is bound to be a glorious picture!

NOTES

1 Deutero-Paul, a disciple of Paul, writing in his name, is credited with II Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians. Pseudo-Paul, a second century churchman, is called pseudo, as he is pseudonymous, not Paul at all, but using Paul's name. Pseudo-Paul is the author of the Pastoral Epistles of Timothy and Titus, dated between 90 and 140 AD. Norman Perrin, The New Testament (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1974).

2 Michael J. Taylor, John: The Different Gospel (New York: Alba, 1983), p. xii.

3 Norman Perrin, The New Testament (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974), p. 8.

4 ibid., p. 223.

5 ibid.

6 "Pistis Sophia," New Testament Apocrypha Volume I (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963), Editor H. Schneemelcher, pp. 256-257.

7 Norman Perrin, loc.cit., p. 224.

8 Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971), p. 681.

9 This system of switching the scene of action is also used in the Old Testament in a more professional form, so may have been considered an acceptable scribal device. See II Samuel 19:39, 18:17, and 20:22.

10 Norman Perrin, loc.cit., p. 224.

11 ibid.

12 Funk and Wagnalls, New Practical Standard Dictionary (New York: Ferguson & Associates, 1949), p. 227. The American Heritage Dictionary (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982), p. 256.

13 Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of The New Testament Volume IV (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1967), p. 433.

14 loc.cit., p. 461.

15 loc.cit., p. 448.

16 Leonard Swidler, Biblical Affirmations of Women (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1979), p. 14.

17 cf. # 8.

18 "Gospel of Thomas" II 2:51, The Nag Hammadi Library ed. James M. Robinson (San Francisco: Harpur and Row, 1977), p. 130.

19 "Gospel of Philip" II 3:64, ibid., p. 138.

20 "Gospel of Mary" BG 10, ibid., p. 472.

21 ibid., p. 473.

22 cf. # 12.

23 cf. # 11.

24 J. G. Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners (Toronto: Macmillan, 1951); also, M. Bitsios, Greek citizen.



 

 

Chapter X: WOMAN'S POSITION IN
THE FAITH COMMUNITY

10.1 The Calling of A Woman

The earliest Christian followers seem to have been less patriarchal than those of succeeding centuries, but wars and power struggles, gradually drove their communities into male dominated constructs. Women who believed they had a calling to Christian leadership lived out the Christian message by being examples of loving service. Women were forced to remain in the background.

However, there were definitely women, some nameless and others named, who held respected positions in early Christianity. One may have been Bishop Joanna. As I am suggesting that the contributors X-3, X-4, X-10, X-11, and X-12 to the biblical writings attributed to John, may be combined in the person of the beloved elder, or presbyter, named Joanna, I would like to be able to give you some background information on this person. She didn't just spring full blown into the early Christian community. If we are to freely interpret the fragmented writings of the early church father Papias in his searching out eye witness accounts,1 the person behind this Johannine name, may have beheld our Lord. If this Joanna beheld the Lord, there is a possibility that it may be written down somewhere in the gospels.

There are a few intriguing clues to the identity of Joanna. Luke 8:3 mentions a woman disciple of Jesus named Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward. This Joanna, as someone's wife, sounds like a mature woman, older than Jesus, ready to make her own decisions and to be responsible for her own actions. A mature woman would be too old to fulfill our expectations of the presbyter Joanna, writing at the end of the first century: she would have been over one hundred years old. But pause here for a moment to take off the patriarchal glasses, and try to follow along with my speculations. I want to emphasize again, that my proposals are not facts, but only possibilities, written down here in order to give all of us, both men and women, a new perspective to lead us to richer ideas of community.

Our society is comfortable with a view of the Bible that gives an


 

historical picture of salvation interpreted from a male point of view and translated from one male oriented language to another. The place of women in religion and the equality of the female have been disguised and disfigured by language and by societal misunderstandings. In spite of this, there are many stories about females in the Bible, just waiting to be noticed and brought to our attention. We do not usually investigate too carefully the tales related about women. Our attitude seems to be that they are tales told especially for women, and don't serve too effectively in teaching the total community. Therefore, they are counted as less important. The same can be said for stories about children. We listen more carefully to the stories about men such as Peter, because we have come to believe that Peter was a great saint. Stories about women and children leave us thinking about their humility, not their saintliness. Feeling that this is a misperception on our part, I would like to dig a little more deeply into the story of Jairus' daughter. I feel that she has possibilities of being a great saint.

The man Jairus was an important official having to do with the synagogue. This story is told in the three synoptic gospels (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56), but for some reason it is not mentioned in the Gospel of John. Jairus' daughter is given no name, as is quite usual with biblical writings about women and children. This child was ill and presumably died, and Jesus raised her from the dead. She was about twelve years old, which was the cross-over point from childhood to womanhood, and thus she was of marriageable age.

The words used by Jesus to cure the young woman are words that require a response on her part. She is given a call to action and she answers the call. These words may be the only acceptable way for a rabbi to address a possible female follower. When Jesus called Levi, he said, "Follow me" (Matthew 9:9). When he chose Peter and Andrew, the words were, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of human beings" (Matthew 4:19). The twelve year old is not asked to follow Jesus, but is addressed, "Young maiden, arise" (Mark 5:41). It would be unseemly for a rabbi to advise a young maiden to "follow him," particularly if she were of marriageable age and betrothed to some other male. As the maiden was the daughter of an important personage connected with the synagogue, she had tangible value as a marriage contract item and had probably been promised as bride to a relatively important personage. Furthermore, as we have discussed before, in the Hebrew society it was not customary for women to follow rabbis.

Herod the King (of John the Baptist and Salome fame) had officials


 

at his court, one of whom was his steward. This man had to be in the king's presence each day, particularly at meal time to make sure that no one slipped poison in the king's food. Frequently, a steward, because of the personal nature of his duties, could become the king's confidant and advisor. For Herod, this steward was Chuza, a man who from the meaning of his name perhaps had certain abilities to foretell the future.

Have you ever wondered when reading the Bible why a woman named Joanna, the wife of such an important official as Herod's steward Chuza, was allowed to follow Jesus, as described in Luke 8:3? If Jesus had brought this young lady back from the shores of death, both her father and her betrothed husband would want her to show appreciation to Jesus. As Mary Magdalene and other gifted women were in the group of Jesus' followers, Joanna as Chuza's wife and Jairus' daughter, would be allowed to serve the needs of the person who had healed her, out of the gratitude of her family.

If Joanna were the daughter of Jairus, she doubtless had received a good education. Her father was an important man, and she was being groomed at a tender age to be the wife of another important man. She was possessed of the proper education to be the author of the Johannine letters. She would also be the right age bracket for authorship of the late Johannine material. If she were a maiden of twelve, when Jesus was ministering in Judea, she would be about eighty at the turn of the century.

We know that the ministry of Jesus had been discussed at the court of Herod, for Luke 9:9 tells us that Herod was anxious to see Jesus. After perpetrating such a crime on John The Baptist through the connivings of his wife Herodias, Herod must have had many second thoughts when discussing Jewish prophets with his steward and other courtiers.

Another young woman who may have been an associate of Joanna, as she may also have been about twelve and was a personage at the court of Herod, is the daughter of Herodias, who has been called Salome (Matthew 14:6-11; Mark 6:21-29). Can this Salome be the same person mentioned as a disciple of Jesus in Mark 15:40? If these two young ladies were friends, Joanna might have been the instrument for the conversion of Salome. Perhaps Salome also was invited by Rabbi Jesus to arise and to come away from her deadening cultural background, and to love, forgive, and serve.

10.2 Church Fathers As Church Mothers

These conjectures about Salome and Joanna are merely suggestions to enable us to play our game of empathy with the feminine. We perhaps can receive a few answers for our questions about Joanna if we investigate the individual Papias. The early church person Papias is often called a church


 

father, but as this name ends in a-s, she just might be an early church mother. Greek female names often end in a-s while male names end in u-s. Different historical writers down through the centuries have puzzled about Papias. He doesn't seem to act the part of a proper churchman. If we are to assume that Papias is a woman, we can clear up some of these puzzles, and also perhaps get further information about Joanna.

Eusebius, a church historian of the time of Constantine, claimed that the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8) was authored by Papias.2 If Papias were a woman, she could have taken down this story from the lips of the adulteress with more understanding than a man. We have already mentioned that this adulteress story does not seem to be part of the original Johannine material, and was found inserted in an ancient version of the Gospel of Luke, as well as in the Gospel of John.

Philip of Side, an early church writer, believed that Papias was the bishop of Hieropolis, the friend of Polycarp, and the disciple of John.3 If this friend, John, were the lady Joanna, Papias as a woman would feel comfortable with another woman as teacher. The martyr Polycarp has a unisex name meaning many fruits obviously given as an appellation of a good Christian. Greek stories about the martyr Polycarp might not have any feminine pronouns to give us clues to the gender of the person written about. If Polycarp were described as a teacher, presbyter, elder, leader, or human being, all pronouns used to describe her/him would be masculine pronouns. Polycarp may also be a woman.

The third piece of information given by Philip of Side was that Papias was Bishop of Hieropolis. This statement would make many people assume that this person was a man, but I am asking you to be open to the possibility of a female bishop in the early church, or at least the possibility of a predominantly female church community led by a woman.

Papias, herself, in the pieces of her writings left to us, mentions two different disciples named John, and states that both the sons of Zebedee, James and John, were slain very early by Jerusalem Jews. Some Biblical interpreters feel that the martyrdom of both James and John is foretold by Jesus in Matthew 20:23. The death of James about 44 AD by Herod Agrippa is stated in Acts 12:2.

As women might be expected to be friends together, and as I have already said that Polycarp might be a female, I am going to suggest again that one of these disciples of the Lord mentioned in the writing of Papias, with the name of John, is a female disciple called by the name of Joanna. We have already discussed the similarity of the John and Joanna names in


 

both Greek and Hebrew. Anastasius of Sinai4 says that Papias is the disciple of the Lord's bosom friend, which might mean that the bosom friend is someone other than John the son of Zebedee if he died the early death spoken of by Papias. As Papias is a second generation Christian the life spans of the son of Zebedee and Papias were not likely to have crossed. Zebedee's son was probably killed before he had the chance to form a circle of disciples. I would like to propose that the woman Mary Magdalene formed a rabbinical circle, and that among the members of her group were both the younger woman Joanna, who continued the Magdalene's teachings, and after the death of Mary Magdalene, the second generation disciple, Papias.

As one more possible confirmation of the female sex of Papias, we have the modern church historian James Kleist wondering why Papias didn't travel more, and only went to visit the church leader at Ephesus.5 I should like to explain this peculiarity by saying that if Papias were a woman, it would be unseemly for her to pay social calls on male church personnel. However, if the church leader at Ephesus were the woman, Joanna, it would be socially acceptable for her to be visited by the female bishop from Hieropolis, Papias.

It would not be fair to leave the discussion of Papias without mentioning her Chiliastic or Millenarian views. Some early Christians held that Christ would return and the just would live and reign with him for one thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6). Eusebius and other churchmen of Constantine's time disliked this theory and discredited Papias for holding it. Often those entrenched in seats of power do not like to visualize a coming millennium when things will be different and their power may be taken away. Theories of future just reigns are more likely to be held by the oppressed, such as slaves and women. If we consider the Millenarians from a feminist viewpoint, we might conclude that they were a group who believed in a coming just reign where there would be the equality of the male and the female. Chiliastic or Millenarian views might be another reason to suppose that Papias was a woman.

10.3 Women As Servers of Eucharist

I have taken you for a sight seeing journey from a feminine viewpoint. Some of you are probably shaking your heads, and saying that I have very strange ideas, or that I am listening to the beat of a different drummer. You have your opinion, formed by your contacts with society, and I have my opinion, formed from looking at the tapestry from the underside. We each have a right to our own opinion. After all, opinion is not established fact. It is a statement


 

about something, as a person sees it, from his or her particular position. I am stating these opinions of mine in an effort to broaden viewpoints and to achieve more understanding between men and women.

If you have a fever, your outlook, your attitude, and your physical information system are all affected. Because of your fever you may have the opinion, "It's terribly cold in this room!" Actually the room temperature is recorded at a comfortable seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit, so I know from physical measuring data that your opinion is incorrect.

If I have a fever also, I may agree with you that the room is cold. We may conclude together that the recording instrument that states the room temperature is seventy-five degrees, is defective. We are both seeing things incorrectly, so we disbelieve reality together.

Men, and women, too, in our society have been reaffirming each other for so long a time on the patriarchal interpretation of the Bible, that they feel their opinions are absolutely right, and that anyone who comes up with a different measurement of the situation is hopelessly wrong.

I would like to try to convince you that patriarchy is society from a fevered viewpoint, that if Christians in general and the Catholic hierarchy in particular made a stand before the world, against patriarchy, and for equal loving empathetic treatment of women, the world might be impressed. If men considered women as their friends and equals rather than property, or sex objects, or half-formed humans (as women were slandered by Aristotle), the Hindus might be inspired to do away with bride-burnings in India; the Moslems would clarify the place of the female on earth and in heaven; and in our own United States respectful treatment of women might help to do away with the notion of women as sex objects, and thus lessen teen age sexual experimentation, and the accompanying urge to perform abortions.

I may have convinced some men or women of the possibility of feminine gospel authorship, but I know that many of my readers are highly skeptical and see no need for even considering that women had any part in biblical composition. Those men who have undergone forms of oppression may be able to understand my viewpoint, as they have experienced being left out and ignored, in the manner that women have been left out of the greater picture, by some men. I have spoken of the loving personality of Mary Magdalene and hinted that she may have been the first Pontifex Maximus. Many male readers, and also many women, will block that out rapidly. The proposal seems to go against all that we consider stable in the Christian church. The woman has been told for many centuries that she is


 

unqualified to be a priest, similar to the orthodox Jewess being told that the study of the Torah is reserved for men. Repetition is a wonderful way to get people to believe things. Through the centuries it has worked marvelously well for those males desiring to keep patriarchal order in their communities. Today we find patriarchy being reinforced by many TV programs and advertising. Could we perhaps come up with a better and more understanding way of bringing up children and keeping order?

We must not lose sight of the fact that Jesus taught women. I have pictured Mary Magdalene as present at the Last Supper. She was there when Jesus said, "Do this in memory of me!" Being the obedient disciple that she was, she obeyed the Master's words at every breaking of bread. If Jesus hadn't wanted women to preside at the distribution of sacraments, he would have said, "Do this in memory of me, unless you are female!" He did not make this exception, and his early followers believed that Jesus recognized no difference between slave and free, male and female, literate and illiterate. In the early church women felt themselves able to consecrate Eucharist; after all, it was a woman named Mary who first sacramentalized Christ in her womb. Women were also called to be homilists, as it was another woman named Mary who was recognized as an expert in the Word, as she sat in the favored spot at the Master's feet (Luke 10:39). Then, as now, God's grace was poured out equally on both men and women, in Baptism, in the Eucharist, in Confirmation; today when we come to the sacrament of Ordination, we find some people believing that God's grace is stopped short by a chromosome count. We are accosted by the problem of chromosomes versus theology. Theologically Christ is present in the world wherever man or woman is willing to be his Body and Blood, to be broken, divided, consumed for the sake of love.

The author Lucy seems to believe that women are called to be both servers of Eucharist and homilists. In Luke 10:38-42 Lucy portrays Martha as server of Eucharist to the assembled community, and her sister Mary as server of the Word. Further on in Acts 6:1, Lucy brings up a community dispute, which may have to do with the Greek women feeling they are not being given their fair share of Eucharistic duty. In the early church one of the sayings that was repeated over and over, so that it may have been a creedal formula, was the statement of rights in Galatians 3:28. "There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and freemen, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ." Acts 6 describes a situation which has come up where people don't seem to be listening to this formula. If you read the passage carefully, you might think


 

that table service is a woman's job, that real he-men don't wait on table, and that Jesus' command to wait on others at table to make him present in their midst, was left up to the women (as the washing of feet had also been left to the women). You might read into this passage that the Jewish and Hellenist women were having a disagreement as to whom should administer Eucharist. Would the Jewish women as the elite daughters of the Jewish priesthood, allow the Greek women to also share their ministry? To end the discussion, it appears that the apostles appointed some other men to be in charge to keep the women in order. Thus the structures to ensure the smooth running of the church began to be set in place.

If you were in an early church community, such as a house church, and you were the patriarchal type with a wife and children and relatives and slaves, and the custom at meal time was to have your slaves wait on you at table, would you or your wife or your slave pronounce the benediction of the bread and wine and would you distribute Eucharist to your slave? Could you really act as if there were no difference between the slave and the free, between the man and the woman, between the Jew and the Greek? Paul had to write a special letter to Philemon to coax him into treating the latter's slave Onesimus as a brother, so we might conclude that it was difficult for many Christians to give unprejudiced love to their slaves in early Christian times. We can't even give equal treatment to individuals in our churches today. We are more polite to the better dressed individual, and if someone comes into our church wearing a bishop's hat, we go out of our way to create a good impression. It must have been very difficult for the new equality of Christianity to settle in, back in the good old days, even more than it is today. The argument in the early church over these inequalities must have been on red-hot-boil, and probably had the potential for splitting the whole fledgling church wide open. What did people do to contain the fight? How did the Holy Spirit handle it?

Lucy is writing in a time when the problem has been temporarily settled by the leaders of the growing church. She knows that women did serve tables (or Eucharist), but as this sharing became of greater religious importance, male leadership decided that this effective sacrament would be safer under the management of men. Possible important male converts looking for areas in which to expand their power might be turned off by a religion under the guidance of arguing women.

Patriarchal leadership, spoken of as the Twelve, didn't seem to want to have too much to do with the female job of table service. They neatly stepped aside from the issue, and said that the more important leaders should


 

devote themselves to the task of preaching. They advised the community to select seven persons of good reputation, and make these lesser leaders the ones responsible for the serving of Eucharist (Acts 6:3).

Lucy describes the first ordination of priests, Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus. Even at this late date in the life of the early church (Acts was written about 85 AD), women are not forbidden to serve and perhaps some even have the hands of church leaders placed on their heads. It is easy to believe that Paul ordained Phoebe (Romans 6:1) and found her fully qualified to serve as minister of the Eucharist. The loving title of Brotheress (not sister, as it is usually translated) that Paul gives to Phoebe, lets us know that he felt she was the equal of any man. It is also my opinion that Mary Magdalene placed her hands on the head of Joanna, enabling her to fulfill her duties as elder or bishop of Ephesus.

These first appointed servers of Eucharist, or directors and coordinators of those serving, may have been both male and female. The Greek language would necessarily have to use the male gender to describe a group of appointees that may have included some women. They were selected by the total community from among all the members. Greek names that end in u-s or in o-s are usually male; those that end in a-s are usually female. One name in the above list ends in a-s. Parmenas may have been a woman.

10.4 Problems of Joanna

Tertullian (who died 250 AD) was told by an older priest, who had been told by a still more ancient priest, that the author of the Gospel of John had gone to Rome and been boiled in oil.6 This boiled individual miraculously survived and so was sent away to the isle of Patmos.

There are two possible interpretations to the phrase "boiling in oil." We can take it literally, or we can take it figuratively. If we were told by someone today that Hans Kung had been called to Rome, and that they had "boiled him in oil," we would know exactly what was meant. Suppose we take this same interpretation for the author of the Gospel of John. Can't you just picture this poor woman elder or bishop being scalded and tortured verbally by the equivalent of the Sacred Congregation and the Pope himself! All the time the only words they can get out of her are, "Love one another!" The Roman society of their day had so encrusted them, that they felt women were incapable of being effective bishops or priests. They got rid of her by telling her that she could go into exile and write, but that they would keep censoring prerogatives. They didn't want anyone to find out that they had such a difficult woman as a quasi authority in their organization.


 

They sent her to Patmos. The Book of Revelation 1:9b states the location, and the reason, "I was put on the island of Patmos because I had proclaimed God's word and the truth that Jesus revealed."

When the Roman government got their hands on a Christian, they usually executed the person in a public entertainment. We do not hear about offenders against the government being sent into exile. Thus it appears that the exile of the author of John's gospel was not initiated by the Roman government but evidently enforced by church authorities. This is seen clearly if we inquire into the name, Patmos. It means either mortal or I am squeezed to pieces.7 Patmos isn't far from Ephesus and was a convenient way to get the lady away from the leadership duties in her community. She must have felt exceedingly squeezed to pieces. Her thought must have often gone to the problems of community and to the power struggles and ideological differences that affected responsible community guidance.

It may be that the Lady John did not write the Book of Revelation. Some scholars believe that the apocalyptic Book of Daniel of the Old Testament was not written by Daniel, but by someone many years later recording historical facts, and using legends of the time of Daniel and Daniel's name.8 The Book of Revelation may be the same sort of authorship. An admirer and follower of the Lady John, who knew of her times and of her problems, and who didn't want to get into a skirmish with church people who had opposing opinions, set down in vision form, facts about church community and leadership as she/he felt that the Lady John might have seen it.

The author of the Book of Revelation describes many facets of community. First we are given seven messages to certain church communities. Then we are given a section that many scholars have unsuccessfully tried to tie in with the emperors of Rome. Perhaps this section with its references to leadership, can be referring to the church leadership in Rome or in Antioch. Church father Irenaeus (died 202 AD) says that the author John opposed Cerinthus who came from Alexandria, but who had a following in Asia Minor. In trying to steer an even course between the Gnosticism of Cerinthus and the authoritarianism of Rome, Joanna may have been terribly squeezed to pieces.

The final section of Revelation gives us the bad community of Babylon and the good community of the New Jerusalem. With all this description, the author uses the apocalyptic language of visions and numbers, as in the Book of Daniel, which is designed to protect the innocent and to leave you guessing as to the identity of the not-so-innocent.


 

This same technique is used in III John by the Lady John. The authoress uses the names of characters in the historical events of the days of the Maccabees, to describe in code her present situation. Diotrephes and Demetrius are both historical characters known well to those of Jewish heritage. It's as if I told you that a person I wrote about was acting the part of Benedict Arnold towards another person's George Washington. You would gain a certain amount of insight into the situation. Even Gaius, to whom the Third Epistle of John is addressed, is a character of Maccabean times. (Lucy has heard of this argument in the early church and uses the same code names in Acts 19:23.) The person Joanna is writing to, knows to whom the name Diotrephes refers. It is someone who enjoys being in a leadership position (III John 1:9). We can see why the author doesn't want to put anything more down in pen and ink (v. 13). Joanna had troubles with leadership and infighting. She must have discussed the subject often with her friends and followers when opportunity allowed. The Book of Revelation may have been a collaboration growing out of this community discussion.

Diotrephes may be a political leader. Joanna's banishment may have taken place under the reign of Domitian in 95 AD. The Domitian persecution of 81-96 AD may have been the instigation for the Book of Revelation. However, there is reason to suspect that Diotrephes may be a church leader. There are many well meaning and historically important church leaders that might fit into the Diotrephes category.

Clement I was bishop of Rome from 93 to 101 AD. There is a letter written by him to the church at Corinth, which was read for a long time as scripture at public worship. He probably had an equal zeal for the church at Ephesus, where Joanna was situated as elder. Perhaps Clement is a candidate for Joanna's zealous Diotrephes.

Clement was a canonized saint, a good man who tried to do his best for the cause of the church. God worked through him to establish the church firmly so that the message of Jesus could be brought to all generations. The Lady John had to undergo certain sufferings in order that Jesus might be given to the world. The place of women in the church one and two generations after Christ, was a problem for church leadership. It seems to be a problem that will not go away.

10.5 I Timothy and Roman Household Codes

We find second or third generation Christians regulating women in the Epistle of I Timothy. This letter was written by a follower of the Apostle Paul, at about 125 AD.9 We notice in I Timothy a certain bias against loud and pushy women. Can it be that one domineering individual was enough to


 

set a poor direction for the early church community?

Christian women who were wives had obligations towards their Christian husbands, but were not bound as tightly to husbands who were nonbelievers (I Corinthians 7:15). Roman law was a very valuable asset to ancient society. It kept the peace, to a certain degree. It was imperfect, but it was a good guide. The law was given a peaceful name, pax romana. Without it, the population would have been in turmoil. Unfortunately, early Christians were accused of all sorts of illegal actions against the state. The Christians didn't like to think of themselves as an upset to pax romana. They wanted to believe that they were good citizens, and that they kept the Roman law as long as it didn't go against God's law.

The social mores of the day were stated in the household codes of Roman law, and early Christian writers incorporated them into their instructional epistles to remind their converts what were the acceptable ways to behave. Under Roman law wives were subject to their husbands. Widows were frowned upon, because they presented a support problem. If you were a female, your father was obliged to marry you off at an early age. If your husband died, you were given a minimum amount of time to get a new husband to support you. The Roman state encouraged the married condition.

Some Christian women liked the notion of Christianity as it gave them a new freedom— they could choose to be a Christian and practice asceticism, and they didn't have to marry! Some Roman women even converted to Christianity as it gave them the option of getting out of a marriage they didn't like and then of receiving support from the loving Christian community. Younger women didn't have to be bartered off by their fathers. They could serve the Lord as virgins, but the word for virgin back then had more spiritual connotations, such as pure in heart. Unmarried women, as virgins, were considered pure in heart. Women, as widows, were those who lived a celibate existence without a male partner and were considered pure in body. You could be this second type of ascetic female even after living with a husband and still have it considered a celibate state. Thus Christianity was an ideal solution for a warped marriage. Think of the battered wives of today who don't know where to go or what to do about their marriage. Consider the plight of the brides of India, who having fallen into disfavor, risk being burned to death. The Christian women of 100 AD had it made. They had a loving community to support them.

Unfortunately, this arrangement went against the patriarchal structures set up by Roman law. Can you imagine the annoyance of the pagan


 

husband when he sobered up and found out that his punching bag was gone! Three cheers for the loving community of early Christianity! They even made a stab at trying to save the pagan husband from himself (I Corinthians 7:13, 14). What does the Christian church do for its estranged couples today?

The "fathers" of the church didn't want their religion to get a bad name because of its consideration of the oppressed female. They wisely counseled their communities to be good citizens of Rome and to put a little love into the laws. Thus we get household codes inserted in the Epistles, with instructions to husbands and wives, children and slaves, so that loving Christians would be found to conform to the social customs of the day (Colossians 3:18-22).

Our social customs today are still built on the laws of Rome, but we are not as concerned as the early Christians were, with putting love and concern into these customs. We have taken Roman marriage as the norm, instead of any Christian ideas of marriage. Only recently have we looked askance at the patriarchy of the father "giving away" his daughter to the groom. Some ceremonies have replaced this symbol of a woman as property with a statement of support for the bride and groom by the community group witnessing the ceremony. Instead of investigating the worth of African or aborigine marriage customs, we cling to what is the norm for our society, without questioning its origins.

Our educational system today is likewise built on the authority practices of the Roman empire. Perhaps if a little loving consensus were used in our school systems, our teenagers would find education more relevant. If we base important considerations like the education of youth on the backwards needs of a warlike empire that strived to keep its poor and minorities in subjugation, it is no wonder that we have a society that finds difficulty in coping, is still warlike, and is tough on its minorities. Our whole church structure is built in imitation of the authority structures of Rome. It is not surprising that these structures incorporate the secondary place of women. It is the duty and responsibility of today's Christians to look into the matter of whether or not newly envisioned structures of church government might be more relevant to today's church.

An important question to be asked here is (and we implore the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for new and different is not necessarily better), "Are we today as Christians, still to conform to the social customs of the days of Rome, or are we bound to the customs of our day, or to neither?" My suggestion is that we should strive to implement true Christian practice.


 

If Christ were here today, what would he say? He stated the equality of men and women and castigated patriarchal Jews who thought they could divorce their wives for every little cause (Matthew 19:3, 4).

I Timothy written by Pseudo-Paul (a follower of Paul writing under Paul's name) found a temporary solution to the particular problem of his community and his time, but perhaps his advice is not any more serviceable for our day and age than the treatment accorded to women in the Levite and concubine situation of Judges 19. It certainly is not "Christian" to emphasize politeness and hospitality to the male, at the expense of the female, the Levite's concubine, who was raped to death. I Timothy 2:12 gives a similar message of politeness to male leadership, at the expense of the female, with an authoritarian, "I am not giving permission for a woman to teach or to tell a man what to do." Pseudo-Paul may be leaning too heavily on the culture of his time. I am not saying that the story of the Levite condones woman slaughter or that the guidance in I Timothy is hopelessly warped; I am merely objecting to the secondary consideration given to the woman in each case. This secondary consideration is not necessarily the will of God for all time, but these statements in God's word may be given to us as God's Spirit prodding us to seek optimum justice for all in conformity with the overall message of love contained in the Bible.

Pseudo-Paul (I Timothy) found that telling people to love one another, didn't seem to work immediately in every situation. In his flock there were women who had been oppressed for so long that, given a little freedom, they got bossy and started putting down some of the men as a reaction. That's the way some of us oppressed women react. We become convinced that the way to go is to copy male authoritarianism and power structures. We go along with the misconception that what seems to give satisfaction to the authoritarian male should also work effectively for the average human being. Today there are some fanatical women's libbers, who want more than their share of the pie. They ask for discrimination in reverse. They have been without self esteem for so long, that they have forgotten that the oppressor also needs his self-esteem. He must be allowed to be loving and to give of himself to the total community, with free will. He must not be cast aside as if his opinion were no longer worth anything now that the formerly oppressed woman can so obviously manage every detail of her life and feels that she can also effectively manage the total community of which she is a part.

Women who are given equality with men must be careful not to react in this fashion. If we are to change our patriarchal society into a matriarchal


 

society, we have not solved the problem; we have merely changed places. I Timothy may have been on the scene when such a calamity was being threatened in his particular community. The Holy Spirit prompted some necessary action on his part. Jesus had urged equal love and consideration between men and women. Deutero-Paul, a follower of Paul, had said, "Husbands, love your wives" (Ephesians 5:25) and had encouraged women to see the presence of Jesus in their husbands in order to give them the respect and honor that they would give to the humanity of Christ. Unfortunately some wives reveling in their new found self esteem, were not noticing the lack of self esteem that was developing in their husbands. They were unaware of the un-love that was running rampant in their personal community of two. They were so busy asserting themselves in the larger community of the church that they failed to see the destruction being done at home base.

God saw those women. He sees women like them today. The injunctions of I Timothy may be the glue that is holding some of our present day marriages together. It would be better if they were held together by caring love.

If men and women are too busy to contemplate the law of love, and to practice loving consideration for those in their families, it becomes necessary for other loving people to make rules that will encourage loving relationships. Loving community would be built better if men and women obeyed Jesus in showing empathy for one another and if our actions built self esteem into the other person, but we are fallible human beings, and we so often miss the mark. If each of us personally attempted to do all things in a loving manner, and if each of us, man or woman, consistently uplifted the other, such actions would go a long way to reducing the number of divorces, and, likewise, the need for abortions. Used politically, consideration and empathy for others might help to eliminate the threat of nuclear war.

If you need the injunctions of I Timothy to lead a positive life, use those injunctions! But in interpreting the Bible, be careful to respond to your present situation in the light of the total message of the Bible and especially to act in accordance with the teachings of Jesus. It is good to examine today's position of women by considering the stories and messages of the Old Testament and New Testament. It would be very wrong to insist (in the light of the concubine story of Judges 19) that women are to be sacrificed to the whim of sex perverts, as hospitality among males is of prime consideration in such a situation. It also might be wrong to insist (as in I Timothy)


 

that women should be silent before the authoritative wisdom of the male, as the male in the particular situation may be an unloving individual who has possibilities of hurting that woman emotionally or physically in a terrible manner, contrary to the love that is preached by Jesus Christ.

10.6 Growth In The Church

I Timothy is an example of a church leader who came up against a difficult situation, and who made certain proposals to help the church pass through that situation. The Holy Spirit is with the faith community, guiding it, so that the message of Jesus is preserved for the world. The message of Jesus is that we should love one another, but the message won't be heard unless there is some sort of structure to preserve and deliver the message. As this structure is made up of human beings, it is clear that it will have imperfections. It is the task of each new generation to recall the message of Jesus for its day, and to approach as closely as it can to the ideal of that message.

All through the history of the church, there have appeared leaders such as Clement I and the author of I Timothy, who have raised small distortions in the loving message of Jesus, out of the necessity for keeping a viable church structure in which to transport that loving message.

One such leader was Constantine, who amalgamated the Christian faith with the Apollo cult of Rome and gave the church its hierarchical structure. With the acceptance of Christianity as the religion of the empire, came our celebration of Christmas, our mother of God Mariology, and the cross as an important Christian symbol. Constantine visualized Christ in the same manner as he visualized Apollo, a handsome young God willing to help him in his rule. He had little notion of a lowly carpenter-rabbi who advised people to forgive their enemies. Constantine was rather ruthless to those who opposed his plans, be they wives, relatives, or other statesmen. The church absorbed some of this pomp and machismo. Those who felt Constantine's additions to be un-Christlike, fled from such materialism, to the desert, and thus began the popularity of monasticism. Yet without the flamboyant syncretism of Constantine, Christianity might have petered out. The Holy Spirit knew when a Constantine was needed.

As another example of necessary church guidance, the life of Augustine spanned most of the fifth century. He had multiple problems as stated in his Confessions, and thought much about sin, especially original sin. In his youth he was attracted by the philosophy of the Manichaeans. Mani was born about 216 AD in Babylonia and in his missionary zeal combined Zoroastrianism and Buddhism with a cosmological Jesus.10 The


 

Manichaeans believed in the duality of light and darkness; this mixture gave the middle ground of earth. Those who preached the beliefs of Mani were called the elect or perfecti. The ones they preached to, were called hearers. Augustine was merely a hearer, as the perfecti were celibate, and Augustine had a common law wife. Having succumbed to the evil of the flesh (as Manichaeans saw it) in producing a son, Augustine could never hope to become one of the perfecti. Saint Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, introduced Augustine to a Christian neo-Platonism, that drew him away from his Manichaean beliefs and into the Catholic fold. New possibilities of "perfection" came with this nominal change of faith. Augustine's wife was cast aside, and his son died at an early age.

Augustine, with his brilliant inquiring mind, rose into church leadership. He brought to the Catholic church the Zoroastrian dualism of good and evil, belief in celibacy and the unimportance of women, and he gave to a Christianity which in its primitive days was hesitant about admitting soldiers, a theory of just war. A church that was anti-Manichaean in its pre-Augustinian days, accepted, incorporated, and repeated beliefs in the dualism of good and evil, the sinfulness of the flesh, and the power of celibacy. Christianity was altered again from the beliefs of its founder, but it may not have survived the centuries without the work of this man Augustine, inspired by the Spirit, who helped it through its anti-Manichaean crisis.

The writings of Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century incorporated Muslim and Aristotelian thought and set new directions for the church. A great religious thinker had come on the scene in the person of Muhammed (died 632), and it seemed that the whole eastern world admired his cleansing vigor. He swept aside corruption and gave a new written word that combined Judaism and Christianity. Along with his religious thought, other ancient knowledge was disseminated. The wisdom of Aristotle and Plato found new expression through Muslims like Averroes and Avicenna. The Roman church opposed Islam as heretical, to the extent of waging un-Christian wars against it; and in his consideration of Muslim beliefs and arguing against them, Thomas Aquinas was able to assimilate some of Islam's better thought into Catholic teaching. In structuring Aristotle into Catholicism, Aquinas brought in the misconceived notion of woman as uncompleted man, and thus separated the church further from the teachings of Jesus in regards to women. However, the church was able to survive the disasters of the crusades and the popularity of Islam only through Aquinas' skillful co-opting and congealing of Muslim philosophy.

I feel badly about societal conditions that made it necessary for


 

Diotrephes to exercise punitive authority over the Lady John. Like most women, I am crushed by the lack of empathy displayed by the author of I Timothy. There is regret at the cataclysmic upheavals of the time of Augustine, that made it necessary to expound a just war theory that is still used as an excuse for the human mistreatment of the human. But the flow of God's Spirit did not stop with Augustine. God is still working in human beings. In holding up our problems of today against the light and wisdom of the scriptures, we are still given by the Spirit enriched theological interpretations. We can see that the God of Jesus is more serviceable than the God of Constantine or Augustine. This God teaches us to wash one another's feet and to forgive one another's faults. The God of Constantine was a very useful portrayal of God for those times and was perhaps the best available portrayal that people of the fourth century could dream up. Historically, the time of Augustine was one of upheaval and strife, and his ideas on just war and original sin guided humanity through unbelievable vandalism and turmoil. The Spirit of Jesus guides the people God loves to their best possibilities, to their personal fulfillment, in every new age, and will continue to guide us through the upheavals of our todays and our tomorrows.

As the church grew and expanded its beliefs, occasionally we were given the experience of seeing the Holy Spirit working through a woman. Catherine of Siena supported Pope Gregory XI through a time of crisis in the fourteenth century. The intellect of Teresa of Avila was recognized by making her an honorary doctor of the church. However, most historical influences on the church tended to put woman in a secondary place.

Women today are still searching for an accepted spot in the faith community. Celibate males striving to give modern woman a constructive role, present in their homilies the unrealistic model of pregnant virginity, which for most of us today with present-day word definitions seems unachievable. From following Jesus around the countryside of Palestine, women have gone to the extreme of being excluded from the altar of the church. For a woman to get too near to the heart of Jesus, by initiating the sacrament of the Eucharist, seems, for some commentators, to border on the profane.

Yet a wonderful thing about having a Spirit-led church, is that the Christian church has proved itself to be a church for all seasons. We are presented with a new season in this nuclear age. What is the position of women in the world today? What does the church really believe about women? What are practical things that women and men can do to achieve the loving community envisioned by God when she created the bountiful earth?


 

10.7 God's Intentions versus Man's Inventions

Going back to the Garden, I don't think that anyone would disagree that God's hopes for Adam and Eve included the formation of loving community. Attempting to see the potential of the world from an overall viewpoint, I would like to suggest that the creative God who formed us from the earth, and who has given us the egoistical urge to survive, also visualized us as using our separate gifts to aid each other in making a peaceful and cooperative world.

Even before the Holy Books were written, early man was good at surviving in cooperative communities. Different tasks for different individuals became the standard in these communities. The nursing mothers were more likely to stay at home with their babies. The young men were the ones sent out to hunt. As different community groups often had overlapping claims to hunting areas, these opposing groups would send out their men to settle any dispute. One wonders if the course of history would have been changed if nursing mothers had been sent out to mediate.

Side by side with the growth of cooperative communities came the ogre of competition. Perhaps both cooperation and competition are necessary for a viable world. For a community to function in this competitive environment, it became necessary to draw up both rules for community members and also treaties to regulate actions in regards to opposing communities. Often in these definitions of group behavior, the options given for women seemed to be less open.

However, if we are to look at all these various early regulations as possible ways to consolidate loving community, we might find that they are very relevant for forming a world wide community of both men and women. God's intentions seem to be to maximize love throughout the whole earth. The early human, not seeing the overall picture, interpreted God's intentions as the survival of the local community. We often still operate out of that mode of thinking, but if we consider God's will as set down by a particular group for the building up of that particular group, we may see that the community building of that group can be applied to the whole earth.

Consider the Muslim community. The husband is to protect and respect his wife. If he is to do a really good job at this task, he will attempt to assure the physical, moral, emotional, and spiritual well being of this woman. This is vastly different from the usual patriarchal interpretation of keeping her in seclusion for her safety.

On her part, the Muslim wife is to look out for the husband's interests.


 

She is to take care of his home, and she can protect him physically if necessary. It seems that both these partners are being urged by the word of God, as given in the Koran and the teachings of Islam, to support one another in love and to seek one another's fulfillment.

It seems that God's rule for early society was that men and women should help each other, with the division of labor between sexes distributed in such a manner that the early community would survive and thrive. Today we should interpret God's word in the same manner. We should allow both sexes in the world community to do those things that will best help the world community to survive and thrive.

For maximum survival of our world community, we need the gifts of both men and women. We need men and women to support and to encourage one another. We need Spirit-filled leadership of both men and women, who are concerned with their fellow human beings. We need those who follow this leadership to be thoughtful people, who have absorbed into their hearts the total message of the Bible so that they can cooperate actively with God's Spirit in building the earth.

10.8 Don't Be Afraid

We began this dissertation with a parable about a ruler of a far off country. This ruler had gone to a lot of trouble to give us a tool for building our earth into a fulfilling place for all peoples. Some people don't appreciate this tool, God's Word to his people. I have been horrified by hearing someone scream, "Throw out the whole Bible; it's too sexist!"

Sometimes we don't exert ourselves to use this tool properly. We accept it as a gift, but do not use it as a guide unless it pleases us. We often do not practice the love and forgiveness advocated therein, unless it seems to be convenient. We find the directions for making loving community, far too difficult.

However, when we have a complicated machine like a computer, we don't discard it or let it sit uselessly idle when we become frustrated with difficulties in its programming. We study up on the directions, and glean more information, so that we can use it more effectively. We also keep ourselves in good condition so that the computer and the person become a smooth running team. The wise person makes optimum use of whatever tools are given to her.

Hopefully, I have started you off on a track of looking for the equality of men and women in the Bible. This wonderful tool, the Bible, encourages men and women to be unafraid of domination by others and to work together for each other's fulfillment. If you search diligently through this


 

book, having taken off any patriarchal blinders you may have acquired from society, you will find God's hope for cooperative community from beginning to end. Genesis gives us the male and the female created equal in the Garden. At the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation, we are told of the New Jerusalem with its design of absolute equality, the city four square (Revelation 21:16) built on the foundation stones of all that is most precious. Between this beginning and this end are multitudinous thoughts on practical ways to build loving community.

The Bible is not like a Rorschach inkblot that can be interpreted in any way we chose to imagine. The message of the Bible is consideration and equality. It seeks for the formation of optimum community among all humankind. It looks forward to the time when the wonderful Spirit will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

I hope that you have enjoyed these suggestions of possible female participation in the teachings of the Bible and that they were not too imaginative for your taste. You and I are two different people, and we certainly will not see everything the same way. God made human beings with wonderful variety, and God loves these variations that are in each of us. It seems to me that God hopes we will love and respect the differences we find in one another. Our unity as children of God does not consist in believing the same things or being obedient like robots, but our unity consists in loving one another, in deciding to accept one another's differences, and in willing what is best for the other. Thus I hope you will give consideration to my suggestions and not be offended by them.

It is a difficult thing for a human being to re-orient himself or herself and to change long held perceptions. Most of us are comfortable where we are. We resent having someone else attempting the reform of our societal structures. We like to do things the way our ancestors did them or the way we think our ancestors did them. It gives us stability. If someone suggests knocking these stable props out from under us, we feel threatened. We think that our security depends on keeping the balance of power the way it is. We are afraid to let go of patriarchal authority and to trust in a loving consensus of men and women. We mustn't be afraid. God works best in a group of trusting, loving people. Often the dominant authoritative type is not so much proclaiming God's message, as proclaiming what he or she thinks is God's message.

Consequently, I am not telling you that there are women authors of the Bible and that you must believe me. Though I may think that I have a message, I am only making suggestions, and I would like to get back your


 

reactions. Many minds in loving discussion can come to a fuller appreciation of the heart of God than one person whose beliefs are chiseled on stone. We grow and we change, and there is always more that we can learn from the infinite God.

NOTES

1 James Kleist, Ancient Christian Writers (Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1948), p. 109.

2 ibid., p. 116.

3 ibid., p. 122.

4 ibid., p. 121.

5 ibid., p. 109.

6 F.V. Filson in Interpreters Dictionary of The Bible Volume 2 (New York: Abingdon, 1962), pp. 953, 954.

7 Alexander Cruden, A Complete Concordance (Philadelphia: Lippincott, n.d.), p. 715.

8 Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology Vol. 2 (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1965), p. 301, Daniel as pseudepigraphical.

9 Norman Perrin, The New Testament (New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974), p. 265.

10 J. Reis in New Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. IX (New York: McGraw Hill, 1967), p. 159, article on Manichaeanism.

 

AFTER Thoughts

The Peculiarities of Canon Law

  • Taking Off The Patriarchal Glasses was first published in 1987. Since then, additional attention has been given to the woman priest controversy both by the Congregation for The Doctrine of The Faith residing at the Vatican and groups such as the Women's Ordination Conference. Unfortunately, the Congregation for The Doctrine of The Faith has already proved itself in the case of the Inquisition to be a disastrous political tool used by powerful prelates in the church to control those with forward looking ideas. One must certainly question and mistrust the objectives of such an authoritarian group when its power and announcements run contrary to the intuitive philosophy of the common people. A question that must ultimately be asked is, "Does God speak more urgently through those in power or through the humble?"

Jesus gave us the example of speaking up for the common people. He rebuked the religious rulers of his time who had resorted to unloving interpretations of regulations in Matthew 23:4-7 saying, "They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people's shoulders, but will they lift a finger to


 

move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honor at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi."

The Doubt and Response Document in regards to the place of women in the church hierarchy, promulgated by the Congregation for The Doctrine of The Faith on November 18, 1995 in an ordinary manner (in forma communi), does not carry the unique position and authority of a papal communication done in a special manner (in forma speciali). Although this promulgation may seem to be uniquely designed to aggravate the sensitive situation having to do with the possibility of women priests in the Catholic Church, the intentions of its promulgators may be in a quite different direction. Underlying this promulgation are cultural peculiarities and varying legal interpretations of Canon Law. Some law such as British Law is to be obeyed. If not obeyed, there will be penalties. Early Roman civil laws were issued more as guidelines. If the ordinary people found compliance difficult, the law could be rediscussed and reworded. We of the United States have a more British interpretation of legal documents. We expect that laws should be given instant and unquestioning obedience. The Vatican, having its roots in Rome, uses the more liberal concept. In the present instance, the Congregation mimics the practice in ancient Roman civil governance:_ Leaders in the provinces would send a question or Doubt to the civil ruler in Rome to get his opinion about how to govern. The civil ruler would send back a Response, which would simply be his opinion. After receiving this learned ruler's message, the provincial governors would have to work the situation out with their local citizens. The whole purpose of the present Doubt and Response Document on the position of women could be to test public and theological opinion.

We must not be counterproductive in thinking of the Catholic Church as being the helpless tool of a power group, whose power is not under the control of the Holy Spirit. We must trust the process, and trust the Great Spirit to work in all things. Canon Law has been designed to help those in authority come to proper knowledge of what is best for the world. As church leaders are fallible, they will be obliged to listen to the majority opinion while giving the minority a chance to prove their case. This Doubt and Response can be considered a backhanded statement that invites the theologians or biblical experts to discuss the meaning of ordination and related topics. The people of God must take this opportunity to respond further, to


 

martial the counter evidence, and to express their will for a liberalization of the concepts of ordination and priesthood to include married men and women.

Definitions of Ordination

Besides the question of the finality and irrevocability of the Doubt and Response promulgation, clarification is needed on the subject of ordination. The Vatican definition of ordination is certainly quite different from other definitions available, and may come out of an entirely different historical context. What did ordination mean to Jesus and the early church? More recently, the Women's Ordination Conference definition of ordination as a Discipleship of Equals seems like a reasonable one for a Spirit-filled church.

What is ordination anyway? Is it a call from God for the hearer to go forth to serve humanity, or is it a ceremony of specially selected men placing hands on others so selected? If we consider ordination from this placing-of-hands or ceremonial viewpoint, do we have any examples of Jesus ordaining women? Are there instances in the Bible or in tradition where Jesus laid on hands and gave a verbal challenge to either men or women or both?

Luke 7:14 describes Jesus putting his hand on the bier of the man from Nain. The call to action is, "Young man, get up." In Luke 7:36-50 a "sinful woman" touches Jesus' feet, and her call to action is, "Go in peace." There is the twelve year old girl of Mark 5:42 (Luke 8:54-55). Jesus took her hand and told her to arise. The hemorrhaging woman in Luke 8:43 may have received ordination by touching only the fringe of Jesus' garment. Like the woman who was a sinner, her call was to go in peace. Luke 8:28 has the calling of the Gerasene demoniac made known by having him sit at Jesus' feet (the position of a favored disciple). The man's commission was, "Go back home and report all that God has done for you." All of the above are examples of possible ordinations by Jesus.

The Congregation for The Doctrine of The Faith of the Catholic Church in its recent pronouncement seems to limit the meaning of ordination to the calling of the twelve male apostles mentioned in the synoptic gospels. Their apparent belief that it was Jesus' conscious decision to exclusively appoint just twelve men may be a convenient later day interpretation. Why twelve? Was twelve an appropriate number planned to correspond with the number of Jewish tribes (which happened to have only male leaders)? The names of these twelve do not correlate in the different gospels, and there are still different ideas of who were the original students of the Rabbi Jesus in Apocryphal and Jewish writings. The Congregation may not have considered


 

that the attendees at the Last Supper were called disciples and were not specific selected apostles. In Luke 22:7 Jesus' plans require a room where he can eat the Passover with his disciples. Twelve may have attended (Mark 14:17), or perhaps more, but we do not know their gender or all of their names. The Congregation ignores the important question of Mary Magdalene attending this Passover meal as the Beloved Disciple.

What do you suppose was Jesus' idea of ordination? The implications following Matthew 23:8 make one question whether Jesus ever planned for his disciples to become a hierarchical priesthood, "You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one Teacher, and you are all sisters and brothers." What kind of government and ordination facilities do these words imply? Jesus may never have conceived of the hierarchical government that is in place in many churches today.

What other recommendations did Jesus have for his followers? Did he visualize open communication and consensus among church members in Matthew 18:20? "Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them." Did he believe church leaders should be called Monsignor (my Lord), Reverend, or Father? We think not when we read Matthew 23:9, "Call no man your abba (or honored parent) on earth for one is your Abba in heaven."1

Did Jesus visualize dogmatic teachers or humble facilitators when he spoke in Matthew 20:25-28? "You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Was Jesus thinking of future Inquisitors when he lamented in Matthew 23:29, "Alas for you, hypocrites! You who build the sepulchers of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, `We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets [women witches, knowledgeable scientists, and others as in the Inquisition]2 had we lived in our fathers' day.' So! Your own evidence tells against you! You are the sons [the followers who hold the same beliefs]3 of those who murdered the prophets!"

Matthew 16:18 is often quoted to prove that Peter is the rock on which Jesus planned to build the church. Few promoters of Peter cite Matthew 16:23, five verses later, where Jesus calls Peter a Satan and an obstacle, because the way Peter thinks, is not God's way but man's way. Have those


 

who still firmly believe in the petrine church structure and thought carefully on the reproof in Matthew 16:23, considered that the present church organization might reflect something other than Jesus intended.

Peter and many others were called to ministry by Jesus. All peoples as created by God, and therefore as people of a common God, are called to a ministry of service to others, in one form or another. Buddhists have their ministry. Muslims have their ministry. All Christians are specifically called to a ministry of service as a continuation of Christ's ministry. Some ministries are best done after some degree of professional training. The acquisition of that training and the entry into a period of specialized service may be (but is not necessarily) publicly recognized by a ceremony such as placing hands. This can be termed the ordination for that service. All such ministry, whether officially ordained or not, is a priestly ministry, bringing God and humankind closer to one another.

Suing for and Pursuing after Ordination

Other recent news is that a woman was awarded $8.5 million dollars because the National Basketball Association did not give her a job as referee although she was highly qualified. After turning her down, presumably because she was a female, they began to worry about their public image, and a year or so later, they hired two other women as referees. This action was seen as an obvious reaction by the association to an expected lawsuit by the rebuffed would-be ref. The court took this reaction as an admission of guilt, and the plaintiff was awarded excessive damages.

The Catholic Church is being sued today from many of its adherents. The hierarchy is obliged to forfeit revenue that should be aiding the oppressed and impoverished, because some of their male celibate priests had problems with their maleness and their celibacy.

As we are all imperfect, it seems rather over-retributory to have lawyers demand millions for the supposedly damaged lifetimes of their clients just because the offender was a priest (and the church has money). It does not make the victim feel better when he/she realizes that his fund of money from the Catholic Church is not just coming from well-off prelates but from the mouths of the hungry and from the money that could provide better education in schools for disadvantaged and advantaged youth.

Suing is becoming an accepted way to get what one is due, and to get attention directed at injustices. Should a woman who is qualified and denied the deaconship or the priesthood by bishops sue the Catholic Church in order to get recognition of her right to equality?

It seems to me that suing is not the way to go. When suing the National


 

Basketball Association or the Catholic Church, lawyers are the ones who profit. The victim doesn't know what to do with a large award, doesn't usually enjoy the publicity, and doesn't get the referee's job or the diaconate, or the priesthood, because of strained relationships. People don't need money in order to live fulfilled lives; they do need respect, concerned support, and understanding of their position.

The Catholic hierarchy today is able to somehow justify a male celibate priesthood with the strange exceptions of married male priests who have switched from an Episcopal denomination to Catholicism. Parts of this celibacy tradition had roots in medieval times when clergy were disturbing their superiors by distributing church lands and titles to their offspring. Some other faiths continue to practice this system of inheritance. Back further in the times of the early church, Christian leaders could marry and were expected to marry. Women could be disciples and leaders in the church community (Luke 8:2-3, Revelation 2:20).

Down the centuries customs changed and became more formalized. I received a Master of Divinity degree to confirm an aptitude for things theological in 1983. My male classmates, as a first step to the priesthood, sent in a request to the bishop to be made deacons. Realistically, I assumed that there was no point in a married woman applying. A gentle bishop observing their requests and my withdrawal, promised whimsically that he would ordain me. He went to his reward before I could test his statement, but I continue to believe that God ordains whom she will to her service, and that I did not need any male hands on my head, any specific sexual orientation, or any formal hierarchical education in order to live out a dedicated life. With Paul, I believe I am ordained by God, and not by men (I Timothy 2:7).

I don't think God or the Spirit of Love wants us to sue each other over the matter of ordination or sexual imperfections. Jesus advises, "If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves" (Matthew 18:15-18). I don't think God wants monetary awards to be passed from hand to hand for offenses. The teachings of Jesus place loving concern for others above financial support for particular church communities or creeds. Jesus decries that the Pharisees change legal interpretations so that persons are forbidden to do anything for their father or mother as long as they dedicate their substance to God (or to the priestly community) (Mark 7:11). It is obvious that forgiveness cannot be purchased with money as in the example of simony. I think God wants us to avoid courts of law and to love and respect one another.

Consequently, I will not sue my diocesan bishop for refusing my request


 

for ordination which I made many years back. He was surely having an interior conflict as to whether to obey an interpretation of God's word as read in the Bible, or the word of a man who was representing God. I wonder how many other women have so requested and been refused and felt anger, frustration, and a terrible lack of communication.

I do want each bishop and the pope to whom those bishops give respect, to know how I as a member of the human race, and one with prescribed educational qualifications, feel about their discrimination against married men and women. I sense the despair of others who are differently encultured or less formally educated. I do realize in my heart, the distress that women feel, both the so-called qualified and those named unqualified, who hear a clear "Follow me!" and who know that for a fulfilled life they should pass Jesus' message and God's love on to others.

The responsibility of those who see and hear is to witness, not to dress in royal robes as in kings' houses. The server is to aid the downhearted, to heal the sick, to go into prisons, to visit families in distress, and to go where God calls. We do not so much need priests to offer formal sacrifice, as we need mediators to encourage understanding between the rich and the poor. Jesus was mediator between God and the human, helping us to understand the wisdom of God. Let us be mediators between those who are in conflict with others and between the oppressors and the oppressed. Let's help distressed people to see the wisdom and appreciate the humanity in other confused and distressed people.

Lay People and Priests

Those who wield authority over us frequently are the cause of discomfort that would not exist if we found them to be less demanding in their pronouncements. If we look superficially, we see a problem: the Church authorities are not allowing women to use their abilities. If we search carefully beneath the surface, we see that women are indeed able to exercise ministry and mission. In many Catholic parishes, lay men and women assist a celibate priest with his services to the people. Women and married men serve each other. Women and men equally build up the empathy that exists in the community, many lay people perhaps doing more than the authority figures to support and encourage the realm of God.

In our modern speech certain people are called lay to distinguish them from clergy or priests. Our priesthood is an outgrowth of both the Jewish priesthood and the Roman priesthood, neither of which was particularly noted for perfections. Jesus did not claim a position in the priesthood of his day. He does not seem to have had a political or social relationship with


 

Caiphas. Jesus Christ was a lay person according to our understanding of these terms. The term lay derives from laïkos, a Greek word meaning from the people. The modern priest in the Catholic Church is likewise one who arises or is drawn from the people. Accordingly, combining these ancient and modern definitions of priest and lay as both arising from the people, we can claim there is technically no difference between clergy and lay.

Using the modern definition of lay, we see that Jesus was considered a lay person by his contemporaries! Some early church members wanted to see Jesus as a priest. Hebrews Chapter 7, quoting from Psalm 110:4 describes Jesus as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. In Section 7.4 we stated that Melchizedek may have been a woman. The author of Hebrews felt that Jesus' and David's tribe of Judah lacked the necessary priestly credentials and was trying to prove Jesus' right to exercise authority. They felt if Jesus were to represent God to the people, he should also represent the power inherent in the priestly situation. They tended to put in second place his message of kindness and respect for all peoples. Jesus does not need anyone to defend his credentials or prerogatives. He exercised his mission and ministry as the human product united to the divine creator. His Good News was that all people are called to do likewise.

In our believing, proclaiming, and living this Good News, there are two components:_ (1) the commitment, and (2) the action which follows the commitment. The commitment may be a formal celebration with a placing of hands and a wearing of robes, or it may be a solitary person pledging their being to the service of Infinite Being. The living out of the mission commitment through a life given in ministry to others is the one of these two components which is more important.

If we minimize the woman-priest problem this way by our admission that living a commitment is more important than how loudly one states that commitment, then it is obvious that there is little to complain about. One thinks of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-31. One committed, but did not act. The other refused to commit, but later repented and obeyed the parental command. The action is more important than the spoken word.

Mediation instead of authoritative pronouncements would improve relationships between the Catholic hierarchy and women who feel they have a "priestly calling." Until such time as the hierarchy listens, these women will have to be content with ordination by God which can be an entirely adequate form of ordination. It can lead to fulfilling service and mission as effectively as the more symbol-filled ordination by men.

The Need for Symbols


 

God is quite ecumenical and far beyond creeds and exclusions. As human beings we have trouble visualizing this God of the whole earth and the whole universe with our finite minds. We must have symbols to illuminate God.

In earlier times people carved "idols" to represent the ideas of how they saw God. The strength of God was represented by the elephant. The kingliness of God was represented by the lion. God's ability to observe from the heavens was represented by the eagle. Often some human aspect of God was represented by a specific human, using statues, for instance Mercury as Messenger or Athena for Wisdom.

More recently, instead of statues or objects, words are used as symbols to lead us to the holy. The Muslims describe the 100 qualities of God. Multitudinous books are written to describe all aspects of the holy, and many ways to access the holy. Meditation is a tool that brings us closer to God. Yet the material world is still necessarily present as an entrance to the spiritual. Catholics proclaim the Eucharist as an exchange of holiness between God and the human. Shamans find holes in the mountain where they can enter to be with the spiritual universe which exists side-by-side with the material. In spite of all this information and speculation on the spiritual, we still cannot accurately describe the God we worship.

How can we represent the spiritual by use of the material? It is a challenge to find some universal symbol that will represent the Infinite Spiritual to all people. In prehistorical times there were representations made of the great mother goddess. An ancient fairly universal symbol for the holy which has been used by many, was an imaginary animal, such as the griffin which has the qualities of the lion and the eagle. The Jewish prophet Ezekiel 1:4-12 describes strange creatures by the River Chebar. These had four faces, those of a lion, a bull, an eagle, and a human. This same animal theme was transported from the Near East to Norway, Sweden, and Britain. These animals represent the majestic qualities of God, as some people are given to understand them. The Chinese came up with a dragon. Christians picture the unpleasant side of the supernatural as a devil with a forked dragonlike tail.

Science fiction uses the same type of symbolism today for the unknown. Books and videos have plots where humankind tries their strength against weird animals. Weapons are used, and fear of the unknown is built up in these imaginary situations, while mediation, meditation, and understanding are often untried. Sometimes we use symbols to block out our fears, to enhance our fantasies, or even to protect us from what is spiritual and true.


 

Those accustomed to patriarchy need to have authoritarian popes and prelates who are imperfect like themselves, as an important someone to idolize in place of a God they cannot see. They attribute to this individual superior wisdom and knowledge. Instead of such wishful thinking, we should be acknowledging the wisdom in Jesus' message of love, and copying the kindness of Jesus rather than assuming that perfection exists in authority figures or man made regulations.

This oftentimes fanatical devotion fastened onto a leader they can see, does help some people to recognize the holy qualities of the God they cannot see. Some idolize a prelate; some advise women to idolize their husbands. Adulation and praise do have the advantage that they may help prelates and husbands to become more than they are, and thus transform them from their baser selves.

Some idolize a body of law and use that law to maintain power and control over others. This can be a transformative process or oppressive. It is obviously necessary to use a measure of regulations in the education and guidance of children. The Hebrews were given the Ten Commandments which they called the Law of God. Jesus recognized that such law was given to help the human (both men and women) to fulfillment. Replacing the word Sabbath (which implies Sabbath regulations) with the word law in Mark 2:27, gives us an idea of the importance of the well being of the human being in regards to regulations: "The law was made for man, not man for the law."

Many offenders are confined to prison out of respect to laws when kindness, human rights, and understanding of the offender would have been a better course to take for both the offender and society. Often in this worship we have for the law, the supposed offender is required to obey laws that other people have formulated without his assent or cooperation. This might be the case of regulations formulated by the Catholic hierarchy;_ women were not given a part in the composition or interpretation of church law, so it is not surprising that they do not benefit from such laws. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church should consult women for their wisdom on womanly matters regarding priesthood and then use those interpretations for the encouragement and fulfillment of both men and women.

We must recognize that we are all different, and that we will have different symbols that lead us to God. We could not expect a little child to have the same idea of God as a mature individual. We must respect each other's symbols for they represent the birthing of God in the mind of each fellow human being. Through understanding and consideration we can help


 

each other to come closer to the loving heart of God.

We also must recognize that we do not understand God. As we are different, we will have different opinions about God. We cannot tell if God is a God of chaos or a God of order. We assume that we need order to insure a viable earth. However, perfect order eludes us and chaos continually besets us. In all circumstances, God continues to be in charge and to oversee the process. God eternally encourages order out of chaos. We can be partners with God in this encouragement. We can serve God in our neighbor whether we are "Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female,"4 married or celibate, black or white, healthy or sick. There are no distinctions. We are all part of God's marvelous process.

NOTES

1 Abba has recently been cited to mean that Jesus called God his daddy. Jesus never spoke in English, or modern Hebrew, but in a language called Aramaic. Arabic and Hebrew have both been influenced from this language. Arabic, although its meanings are kept fairly clear in the Koran, has been intermixed with other languages in Islamic countries, so that an Egyptian has trouble understanding an Algerian, because of Coptic and French interventions during the centuries of use. In modern Hebrew the word abba may be translated as daddy. In modern Arabic a young person may use the similar word aquuna to respectfully address either parent, or a wise elder person of either sex who is not related to him/her. In ancient Aramaic the word abba may have had either of these two meanings. The general philosophy of Jesus may lead us to think of God as a beloved parent.

2 Italicized words are the author's insert.

3 As in footnote 2.

4 Galatians 3:28.


 

Does God Take Sides?

Does God make power imbalances?

Those who are in power

be they prelates, politicians, or ordinary people

certainly would not want to think

that God is on the side of the oppressed.

But aren't the oppressed equal members of God's creation?

Wouldn't a just parent treat all her children with equity?

Those who belong to a celibate male priesthood

certainly would not want to think

that God admired the capabilities of women.

But women are made by God equal to men.

The animals are made by God.

The plants, the rocks, the whole earth and the heavens

are made by God.

The earth and its fullness belong to God.

Who is so worthy of power and respect

that they can deprive another piece of creation

of proper respect and rightful portion?

CEC