"The World's First Feminist Work" Ctd


A reader writes:

If that's what you call feminist, then what you Christians call the "Old Testament" beat you to it. 

Early in Genesis, Sarah tells Abraham that Ishmael must go.  Abraham, the archetype of hospitality hesitates and asks G-d.  G-d tells Abraham: listen to Sarah in all that she says.  Note, not listen to Sarah in this instance, but in "all" that she says.

Next generation: Rebecca is pregnant with twins; G-d tells her that the younger will serve the older.  In the meantime, Isaac can't figure this out and attempts to bless the older.  Rebecca who is wiser, pulls the switcheroo on him.

Two generations later: the story of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar -- the latter's subterfuge ends up with Judah declaring "she is more in the right than I", and their union produces the line from which will come King David, the David line, and Messiah. Later, during the rebellion at the Golden Calf -- only the men were involved.  The women knew better (and get their own holiday for their non-participation).

In case after case , the women are right -- centuries, nay, millennia, before the New Testament. This is no big revelation -- any school kid who's gone to private Jewish day school knows the above.

Another writes:

Interesting stuff, Andrew, but this won't fly:

when she brings it up he dismisses her, calling her “woman”

In addition to making Jesus dismissive of his own mother, it is a misunderstanding of the word translated as woman. gynai, the vocative of gyne, is not dismissive. In Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, F. Wilbur Gingrich says it "is by no means disrespectful, but there is no satisfactory English equivalent for it, and it is best to omit the word in translation." (something which Bible translators, believing that every word is from God, are reluctant to do)

The Liddell & Scott Greek–English Lexicon (ninth edition) cites Euripides, Medea 290, where Creon addresses Medea, and it says the vocative is a term of respect or affection. Certainly, no one in his right mind would be dismissive of Medea. And in fact Creon says here that he fears her and her threats and is taking precautions.

Apart from that, the Cana story has a delightfully understated insight into Mary and her relationship with her son. After he appears to put her off (John 2: 3–5), she simply turns to the waiters and says, "Do whatever he tells you." She knew him better than anyone else ever has.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry disagrees with my characterization of his post:

I’m not even sure what Mr Sullivan is referring to here. Women in the priesthood? Contraception? Abortion?

Suffice it to say that while I appreciate that Mr Sullivan apparently thinks he is more qualified to decide what is “un-Christian” than the Catholic Church I don’t believe the Church is pernicious or not Christian. And I don’t want anyone (if there is a single person alive who cares) to infer otherwise from Mr Sullivan’s post.

He continues in the comment section:

I think most non-Catholic Christians would agree that, even though they do not accept its authority, the Catholic Church is Christian, and even would agree that, in fact, even if they may disagree with it about a bunch of stuff, it knows more about what Christianity means than Andrew Sullivan. I think most Orthodox Christians would agree with that, as well as most high-church Protestants, and a good chunk of Evangelicals while acknowledging that they think the Church’s magisterium is wrong about this, that and the other thing.

I’m not asserting that the Catholic Church is the only authority on deciding what is or isn’t Christian (the Church itself doesn’t think that non-Catholic Christians aren’t Christians), only that it’s a bigger authority than Andrew Sullivan.

Which seems pretty straightforward to me.

Once again, an argument not on the merits of the case but from mere authority. In my view, the Catholic church's subjugation of women by an all-male caste of powerful figures deeply distorts the message and actions of Jesus.

(Painting: Rebecca and Eliezer by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century.)