Female theologians publish ‘women’s bible’ to counter claims the Holy Book is sexist in the age of #MeToo
Henry Samuel. The Telegraph•December 30, 2018
A group of Protestant and Catholic feminist theologians have released A Woman’s Bible arguing that the Holy Book is not misogynistic but a tool for female emancipation.
Sparked by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo movement has sent shockwaves around the world about sexual abuse around the world at home and in the workplace.
Many feminists have accused The Bible, Christianity and religion in general of bolstering a sexist view of society that casts women as subservient. They argue that the female figures in translations and interpretations of Bible texts are all prostitutes servants or saints, whose most positive roles are seducing a monarch or kissing Jesus’ feet.
But authors of Une bible des femmes (“A women’s bible”), published in October, say that view is often down to a misinterpretation of the Holy Book by patriarchs and sexists.
The book, they write in the introduction, aims to “scrutinise shifts in the Christian tradition, things that have remained concealed, tendentious translations, partial interpretations.”
In particular, they sought to counter “the lingering patriarchal readings that have justified numerous restrictions and bans on women”.
“Feminist values and reading the Bible are not incompatible,” said Lauriane Savoy, one of two Geneva theology professors behind the book.
The 33-year old professor at the Theology Faculty in Geneva, said she and her colleague Elisabeth Parmentier decided to write the book to redress ignorance over the texts.
Joining forces with 18 other woman theologians from a range of countries and Christian denominations, they have collected a string of texts that challenge traditional interpretations of Bible scriptures that depict women as weak and submissive to men.
Prof Parmentier said: “The problem is that the bible has been used to reinforce cultural stereotypes whereas when you look at the biblical text closely, they are much varied than people think.”
Many women were unaware that theological and biblical research had moved on massively compared to 50 years ago, she said.
“One can no longer today use the Bible to talk about ‘woman’ but ‘women’ because in it there are priestesses, queens, politicians,” she told the Telegraph.
“All that is left out of public debate. Our book was to say: that’s no longer possible, you need to look at the reality of the text.”
“For example, in the chapter in which Apostle Paul said, ‘Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as to the Lord’, he also said, ‘Husbands, love your wives.’
“That was pretty revolutionary for the time. But the second phrase was cut out by church leaders who wanted to reinforce the patriarchal view of society with domesticated women.”
Another prime example was Mary Magdalene, “the female character who appears the most in the Gospels” and whose role had been wrongly interpreted in a number of recent works, the the authors said.
“She stood by Jesus, including as he was dying on the cross, when all of the male disciples were afraid. She was the first one to go to his tomb and to discover his resurrection,” Prof Savoy said.
“This is a fundamental character, but she is described as a prostitute, … and even as Jesus’s lover in recent fiction.”
The pair were inspired to write the book by the work of American suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a committee of 26 other women who in 1898, drafted The Woman’s Bible, which had a similar aim but which was, they said, outdated today.
They said they hoped their work would prove useful in the age of #MeToo.
“Each chapter addresses existential questions for women, questions they are still asking themselves today,” said Prof Parmentier. “While some say that you have to throw out the Bible to be a feminist, we believe the opposite.”
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