A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE PHENOMENON
“It’s kinda funny you know, we have this idea that women are lesser than us guys but the jokes really on us cause, [together] with all fellow women in Christ, we are His bride”
Feminism. It has resurfaced over these last two centuries and it’s still going strong. Not only is it a hotly debated topic but it’s discussion has raised questions regarding the roles of the genders in society. As difficult as it might be to tackle the issue as it has often left many torn apart as previously, culturally-influenced notions of the roles of men and women contribute towards having heated arguments. Often times, some believers in Christ use the Bible as their defence. With revolutions and the equality of the sexes being a pivotal claim that has led to egalitarianism and equal rights in both the Western World and the Developing Countries, let’s delve into this matter a little more…
Genesis, the very first book of the Bible is the primary guide to understanding any and all statements made about man and woman. Any texts read and interpreted without knowledge of-and understanding of-Genesis leads to conclusions born out of eisegesis (which is a theological term used to describe the act of reading one’s own ideas into the biblical text). This, of course is not what we are setting out to do here because we would like to see if the Bible’s world itself supports a feminist inclination.
We do see that God in Genesis ‘creates male and female; in the image of God he created he them’. Both, from the first chapter are established as having been created in God’s image. An interesting bit of information on this is that biblically, God is neither male nor female, and he is not both (ref. to previous post on ‘Transgendering God’). God is neither gender and neither is he all. God gave both masculinity and femininity to mankind to better have a grasp of what he is like [note keyword: like]. God is as much initiator (which in Hebrew is associated with the masculine world) as he is sustainer (which is associated with the feminine world). This phenomenon explains why in God’s new world, people neither ‘give in marriage nor are given in marriage but are like the angels’: There is no need for sex/procreation since we are, after ‘the Wedding Supper of the Lamb’ given in marriage to the Lord since we are dwelling in him. Instead, we spend time delighting in his presence and worshiping him for the primary indicators of the former order is gone; time, age, sin and death (just to name a few).
The process of God’s pulling out the woman from Adam is quite another tale. Contrary to common, popular belief, there was no rib. God pulled the woman from Adam’s side and ‘built’ her ‘corresponding/equal to him’. And it gets stranger still, Adam is said to have been ‘formed’ as one would with a mud figurine: A feature very reminiscent of the process of Israel’s creating brick and mortar for building the structures in Egypt for Rameses II. And if we take Moses to be the writer of Genesis, this makes much more sense.
What’s intriguing about the creation narratives in Genesis is how they allude to several things that Israel was familiar with at that time. For, on one hand, the creation days with the culmination of the creation of Man and Woman on the 6th is a temple narrative: in this story, God creates a special place on earth named Eden and places his image and likeness in it in a manner similar to what a temple builder in Egypt and the Ancient Near East would do. It was common, upon completion of the temple for the deity for the chief builder to place a ‘holy place’ inside the temple where the images and likeness of the gods were put. A matter that is in fact very reminiscent of God’s order to Israel never to make any graven image or likeness in the famous Commandments.
Now, it is important to note that the writer of Genesis is giving this story to us in a very multi-layered way. For, if we take his intention for writing it as he did under God’s guidance we get to see that the Man and the Woman were created to function as God’s image and likeness on earth…and thus God declared earth to be man’s realm and the heavens’ his; but governing and ruling earth through his word, and mankind. Both man and woman were created to work together in this order with none really greater than the other. What makes things interesting is the rabbinic debate from the early 100s AD about why the woman had to come: This is the angle that makes the discussion all the more interesting.
Some rabbis suggested the earlier ‘drifting away’ of Adam from God as seen in God finding Adam doing umm…well, not so good…he makes the woman intentionally equal and corresponding to him but different. I would like to suggest that the early audience of the book of Genesis were not exactly surprised because they had seen for themselves in Egypt the authority of a couple who were treated as gods; the pharaoh and his queen. Not only did Pharaoh rule with his wife but his wife as well as women throughout Egypt enjoyed equal rights as their spouses. They could own land, inherit property and the list goes on…
The woman therefore was significant and following carefully, the woman was going to become the secondary source of Adam’s redemption; through the ‘through her seed’ clause in God’s redemption plan. This is seen when Christ’s conception takes place, Mary, not Joseph is the recipient of the exciting news. For just as Adam realized after the Fall he was dead (according to the word given to him) Adam, at this point named his wife Eve–whose name is ‘living/being/mother of all living’. Adam, we later on see was chased out, not Eve after a close examination of the biblical text [Adam, not Eve is to blame for the Fall as the New Testament would remind us; ‘Through one man, sin came into the world’] is to blame. Whereas their roles were now distorted, God still told Eve that she would still desire her husband but that he would rule over her. Eve’s value remained and her status demanded that she care for her husband and help him as he struggled with his new state of struggle.
But the irony is fully set in when God makes it known that he is the Groom to Israel [Romans 9-11] and that the Bride is his “called out ones”; the ekklesia–a word erroneously translated as ‘church’ when it is in reality a synonym for Israel [ref to posts on Jesus as Son]. The people believing in the ‘seed of the woman’ are the bride. The field is leveled as men become as much dependent on God as a woman is on God. As Paul would point out, and according to the Encyclopedia of the Apostles…Adam is the head of the woman as God is the head of Christ refers to the radiating glory of the objects i.e. man to woman and God to Christ. The example the encyclopedia provides is found in Revelation 1 Christ’s appearance to John.
This was a hard one to tackle but these are my thoughts in a condensed form on the matter. In my conclusive opinion though, the field has been levelled as evidenced in God’s distribution of spiritual gifts. This as well as ‘there is no male no female’ clause contribute to this discussion. Although debated, God has given us guidelines on why the genders exist and their purpose. How this is to be done is to be agreed among couples and other social categories but there is beauty to the genders working together in harmony and doing a good job not just for the sake of having gender equality as seen in Proverbs 31. This kind of agreement yields ‘mutual submission one to another as the Law of Christ instructs you’ that Paul speaks of…notice its lack of bias to either gender. In today’s world, we know this phenomenon as chauvinism…