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The Portrayal and Place of Women in Western Religious Traditions

The Portrayal and Place of Women in Western Religious Traditions

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The Portrayal and Place of Women in Western Religious Traditions

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  1. The Portrayal and Place of Women in Western Religious Traditions Jewish Traditions, Christian Traditions and Muslim Traditions

  2. Jewish Traditions • Women's status and freedoms were severely limited by Jewish law (Torah) and custom in ancient Israel, as they were in most other cultures at the time: • most were restricted to roles of little or no authority (e.g. could not be priests), • they were largely confined to their father's or husband's home, • they were considered to be inferior to men, for example from the Second Temple period, women were not allowed to testify in court trials and were limited to only the outer court of the Temple

  3. Adam's “Rib”? • First creation story describes God as creating males and females at the same time, which might be interpreted as implying equality: • “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27) • But in the second creation story man is created first: • "...the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (mishnatchayyim); and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7) • God then parades the animals past Adam (Genesis 2:19-20) to find a suitable “helper” but finding none creates Eve out of Adam's “side” (not rib) • the term “helper” has historically been interpreted as implying an inferior role, but modern interpreters point out “...the Hebrew word translated 'helper' is used twenty-one times in the Hebrew Scriptures: twenty of these cases refer to help from a superior.” (1) • later Adam asserts his authority over Eve by naming her: “...she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (2:27)—in ancient times, one was believed to have authority over a person or thing by naming it • Later in Genesis 3:20: "And Adam called his wife's name Ḥawwa; because she was the mother of all living.”— Hawwa means "living one" or "source of life" (1) B.M. Metzger & M.D. Coogan, "The Oxford Companion to the Bible", Oxford University Press, New York, NY, (1993), P. 806 to 818

  4. Why the Two Different Origin Stories? Insights from Comparative Religion • In the first creation story the creation of the sun and moon on the 4th “day” may have been to show they are not gods, but parts of creation • In the 2nd creation story human beings are imbued with God’s “mishnatchayyim” perhaps to emphasize their value versus ideas such as that of the AtrahasisEpic (and the other Babylonian creation stories) that human beings are made to free the gods from toil and to produce their food (i.e. as slaves), such as when the Goddess (Nintu) is instructed to: “Create a human to bear the yoke” • The idea of being taken from Adam’s side may have been meant to contrast with creation stories that implied completely separate origins of male and female “tribes” such as in Hesiod’s Theogony: “Forthwith he made an evil thing for men as the price of fire; forthe very famous Limping God formed of earth the likeness of a shy maiden as the son of Cronos willed”

  5. TikkunOlamvs. Original Sin • It has been traditional to place the blame for “original sin” on women in Christian cultures • Important to note that in Jewish theology there is no equivalent to the doctrine of “original sin” (i.e. an idea of humanity inheriting primeval guilt) • Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden is certainly seen as a tragedy, but not one for which subsequent generations are in any way responsible • Instead, each individual is responsible only for her/his own personal actions and generally enjoined to “repair the world” (tikkunolam) by doing mitzvot(good deeds)

  6. Hebrew Scriptures • Provide varied images of women, including: • the bravery of the prostitute Rahab (saves two Israelite spies) • the sexual trickery of Judah’s daughter-in-law, Tamar • the courage and wisdom of Queen Esther (Purim) • the military assertiveness of Deborah (described as both a Judge of Israel and as leader of the army) • the faithful obedience of Ruth • the unrelenting wickedness of Jezebel • female “prophetesses” including: Miriam, Noadiah, and Isaiah's wife

  7. Ancient Torah Teachings • Sexual behavior • “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14) • Intercourse of a married man with an unmarried woman is not adultery in the Jewish law. • Woman accused of adultery could be compelled by her husband to undergo the “ordeal of the bitter waters” (Num. v. 11-31) • Women's fertility • No sexual relations through her menstrual cycle and seven post-menstrual days until purified by immersion in a “mikvah” bath (same for nocturnal emissions and dead bodies) • Divorce • Deuteronomy (24:1) states that when a man wants to divorce his wife, “then let him write her a bill of divorcement” (a ‘Get’)—traditionally only a man could initiate a ‘get’ • In 9th cent husband could no longer divorce his wife without her consent • Now Jewish religious courts can compel the husband to grant a divorce • Women as property • The tenth commandment forbids coveting your neighbor's house, wife, male slave female slave, animals or anything else that the neighbor owns (The wife is equated with a piece of property) • Inheritance • Only if no male relatives

  8. Other Female Imagery in Judaism • Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, “Wisdom” is personified as a type of female goddess who is present at the creation of the world, and who intervenes in human affairs • In Jewish folklore, from the 8th–10th centuries onwards (e.g. Alphabet of Ben Sira), Adam is described as having a first wife, who was created at the same time and from the same earth as Adam but who left him after she refused to become subservient to him

  9. Modern Judaism • 3 Main Divisions Today: Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed • Reformed group has female Rabbis Increasingly some conservative synagogues also have them

  10. Early Christian Misogyny • The Judeo-Christian account of creation, in which the first woman was derived from man, provided a philosophical basis for gender inequality • Eve was described by many early Christian writers as a wicked temptress and blamed for the “fall of mankind” • The 2nd cent. Church father, Tertullian, spoke of Eve with misogynist undertones: “Woman... do you not know that you are [each] an Eve?. . . You are the Devil’s gateway. You are the unsealer of that forbidden tree. You are the first deserter of the divine Law. . . On account of your desert, that is death, even the son of God had to die.”

  11. Women Associated with Jesus • Mark 15:40-41 women provided financial support • Public dialogue and debate with women (Mark 7:24-30; John 4:1-42) • Women accompanied him in Galilee and to Jerusalem and were present at his crucifixion • Earliest tradition (Mark) suggests that they alone remained faithful

  12. …he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar,… and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.  A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ … Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! … Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ John 4

  13. The Samaritan Woman at the Well (“He had to go through Samaria”) • The Samaritan woman likely at the well during the hottest point of the day to avoid the wagging tongues of her fellow townspeople • Jews didn't normally travel in Samaria, but used a route created around Samaria from Galilee in the north to Judea (Jerusalem) in the south, but Jesus chose to walk through Samaria • Jesus flouts two very powerful taboos in this episode: speaking with an apostate and speaking to a strange women in public

  14. Mary Magdalene: The Woman With 7 Demons • Mentioned in all four Gospelsas a witness to his death and resurrection • She is given the epithet Magdalene (town of Magdala) to differentiate her from the other Marys • 4th cent Church Father Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles” (her Eastern Orthodox title) • Mentioned as a woman out of whom Jesus cast seven devils (Luke 8), but in popular Catholic thought she is also confused with the “sinful woman” of Chapter 7 since Pope Gregory the Great (540–604) combined the stories of these two women in a composite image of the Church’s forgiveness of women of “ill repute”

  15. Saul/Paul • Not a disciple, but considered one of the “apostles” • Experienced a vision of Jesus and conversion on the road to Damascus • Was trained as a Pharisaic Rabbi, who participated actively in the persecution of the budding Jesus movement in the synagogues of Palestine and later in Syria • Responsible for over half of the New Testament writings

  16. Paul’s Mixed Legacy • In Gal 3:27-28 “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” • However, despite working closely with many women in the “Gentile Mission” in later letters he recommends head covering for women, their subordination to men (1 Cor 11:3-16) and that they be “silent in the Churches” (1 Cor 14:34-35)

  17. Women Associated with Paul: Examples from Letter to the Romans • Phoebe a deacon (minster) at Cenchraea and Paul’s own patron, entrusted with carrying a letter to Rome • Prisca, who along with her husband Aquila are largely responsible for funding the Gentile mission (named before her husband) • Mary Tryphaena, Tryphosa and Persis described as “colleague” and “co-workers” • Julia and Nereus are high profile figures • Junia “foremost among the apostles”

  18. Lydia Leader of the First Identifiable Congregation/House Church • In the Letter to Philippians only two believers mentioned: Euodia and Syntyche • In the Book of Acts, Church of Philippi begins with the conversion of Lydia, a business woman (“dealer in purple cloth”) whose entire household came to adopt the faith and is described as the head of the congregation that came to gather at her home (Acts 16:1-15)

  19. Dan Brown and the Gospel of Philip • Gnostic Gospels (later writings of the early Christian movement dating from the 2nd to 3rd century)such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Philip • The Gospel of Philip (3rd century) indicates that the male disciples were jealous of Mary Magdalene: “and the companion of the [missing words] Mary Magdalene. [missing words… loved] her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on the [missing word].”

  20. Lois Wilson first female Moderator of the United Church of Canada (1980 -1982) Female Clergy • Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and many denominations within Protestantism, like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Southern Baptist Convention in the U.S. still deny ordination to women • Since Early 1800's Society of Friends (Quakers) have had female clergy • 1936: United Church of Canada (2nd largest Christian Group) • 1976: Anglican Church in Canada (3rd largest Christian Group) Represent over 1/3 of Canadian Christians

  21. Gay Clergy & Marriage (In Canada) • There are six main biblical passages that have traditionally been used to condemn homosexuality and same-sex marriage: Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 19:4-5, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 • In 1988 the United Church of Canada made a declaration on “sexual inclusiveness” which opened the 2nd largest Christian denomination in Canada (after Catholicism) to same-sex marriage and ordination of homosexual clergy • In the Anglican Church of Canada (3rd largest denomination) the Diocese of New Westminster, authorized a rite for the blessing of same-sex unions at its 2002 Synod—by 2003, six of the diocese's 76 parishes received authorization to use the rite http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OiDrbipW34 Matthew Vines

  22. Muslim Traditions • Islam does not see itself as the “youngest” of the three monotheistic faiths, but rather as the continuation and perfection of Judaism and Christianity • Mohammed is seen as the last (the “seal”) of the line of prophets of Judaism stretching back to Abraham and also including Jesus as a prophet • The Koran considered the direct revelations of God’s words to Mohammed, recorded in his lifetime and carefully preserved to this day

  23. Kahdijah: Business Woman • Mohammed’s first wife Kahdijah (older than him and twice widowed) was the owner of a successful caravan business • According to Muslim sources, Kahdijah was the first person Muhammad spoke to about his initial, terrifying experience of revelation and became the first convert to Islam • Muhammad remained in a monogamous marriage with Kahdijah until her death (in his fifties)

  24. The Sermon Against Female Infanticide • Surah Al-Takvir Chapter 81, Verses 8 and 9 (81 : 8-9)“When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned, for what crime she was killed.” (17:31), (6:15) • One of the first revelations received by Mohammed and the subject of one of his first public sermons

  25. Problematic Koranic Verses • 2:282 In court women’s testimony worth half a man’s (does contrast with ancient Israel’s complete prohibition of female testimony) • Apparent corporal punishment • Koran Verse 4:34: “As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly if it is useful); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely Allah is Ever Most High, Most Great.” • The clearest verse on the requirement of the hijab is surah 24:30–31, asking women to draw their khimār over their bosoms. • “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimār over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husband, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments.”  Koran 24:31

  26. Female Imams • By tradition only men have led prayers for both sexes • In some Muslim traditions women have been allowed to lead women only prayer meetings • April 2005, RaheelRaza led Toronto's first woman-led mixed-gender Friday service • On Eid al-Fitr, 2012, ImamahJamilaEzzani led a group of men and women in their Eid prayers (http://mpvusa-la.org/video/imamah-jamila-ezzani-eid-prayer-mpv-la-8-19-2012)