Ancient Israel Israel is the culture that contributed the Bible, perhaps the most influential book of the last three millennia, to western civilization. Ancient Israel, circa Christ’s life By the thirteenth century B.C.E the Israelites inhabited the hill country on both sides of the Jordan river, either as settlers or nomads. –Their history was dominated by warfare, perhaps because the land was poor for agriculture making the economy frail. –Even periods of strong centralized rule were marked by political coups. 1922-1947 Since 1993 • The society was governed on the basis of religious law that had been handed down to Moses by God. • Old Testament Israel had a patriarchal family structure – a patrilineal descent – a patrilocal residence, which was reinforced and institutionalized by its laws. Only when Hebrew women married and became the mothers of children did they gain any authority over other people. A “Good” Hebrew Wife • • • • was “industrious, wise, prudent, gracious.” taught her children, planted and maintained a vineyard, enhanced her husband's reputation through her virtue. • was regarded as a natural and God-ordained helpmate to her husband. Laws Governed Women’s Behavior In some cases, these laws can seem as harsh as the Sumerian or Assyrian laws • Sex, for women, belonged to the marriage bed and even a girl who had been raped had to become, or be treated as, the wife of her attacker (Exod. 21:7-11, Duet. 21:10-14). • A bride found not to be a virgin could be stoned to death by elders of the town. • An adulterous wife could expect death as a punishment (although infidelity by the husband with harlots was tolerated--but not encouraged--and polygamy gained acceptance--but not with enthusiasm). • A woman could never divorce her husband, but a husband could set his wife aside, although he could not divorce her without substantial cause. That men dominated religiously meant that they dominated socially and politically, as there was no separation of church and state in Ancient Israel. • Lesko explains in your readings that this was probably not a conscious effort by men to attain and retain superiority, that “Male strength, vigilance, and domination doubtlessly appeared necessary for the security of Israel's state throughout a tumultuous and war-torn history, and women, as a group, consequently became the state's least effective members.” • Lesko concludes her discussion on ancient Israel by pointing out an irony in regard to ancient Israel and it philosophies and practices: “The main object of the state was to secure justice and to respect the worth of the human spirit, yet the spirit of its women was strictly kept in check. The prophets did not challenge the inferior status of women any more than they railed against the institution of slavery” (73-74). A Critical Approach to the Bible • The texts of the Old Testament include many literary genres and span almost a thousand years. Not unusually, they reveal diversity (and complexity) in attitudes about women. • Before we look directly at the text, we need to establish certain aspects (or ground rules) necessary for the discussion and study of these texts as works of literature and as artifacts of history. Biblical Scholarship • A common misunderstanding is the thought that the Bible is a single, complete, and integral document, unchanged and unchanging, which transcends the conditions of life on Earth. • Although the Bible may be the product of divine inspiration and although it may be regarded in its entirety as God's revelation, we will acknowledge in and for this class that God did not put a single word of it on paper. As we delve a bit into the study of the Bible, it is important to keep an open mind. • Some people have the idea that anything printed is the truth, especially in the Bible, the most sacred of books, at least in Western tradition. – When applied to the Bible, this is called Biblical inerrancy, the idea that there are NO errors in the Bible. This idea forces people to make sense of the senseless. • In this class we'll view the Bible as a literary and historical document, and we see the Bible as important because it is a common heritage of all of us in Western culture. Theory of Biblical Authorship • Whether or not one believes that the writers of the Biblical texts were under divine inspiration, one can still recognize the complexity of biblical authors. • While certain pieces seem to be the product of the person whose name they bear, an in-depth bibliographic study, or Biblical exegesis, (made more exact by recent increased access to archeological and epigraphical materials from the Near East) will show that the forms they take--the arrangement and selection of the pieces--seem to have been the work of others. The Pentateuch • The best example of this complexity is the first division of Hebrew scriptures which contains at least four different sources. – (five scrolls, Greek) or – Torah (teaching; or less properly, the Law) • The Pentateuch covers the first seven hundred years--roughly 1950-1250 B.C.E.--of Israel's existence. • It underwent many changes during history, "finally" becoming shaped into a "salvation history" around 5th century B.C.E. to give its people hope, despite their diminished circumstances. The Five Books of the Pentateuch • • • • • Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy The oldest surviving manuscript of the complete Bible is the Codex Leningradensis which dates to 1008 C.E. A Facsimile edition of this great codex is now available (Leningrad Codex 1998, Eerdmans for $225). • Traditionally, it is thought to be the traditional teaching that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, written by Moses for the following generations, BUT nowhere in the text itself is there that claim. • Biblical and critical scholars have long questioned the veracity of this "Mosaic" assertion for some time. Hobbes, Spinoza, Richard Simon, Jean Astruc, and others have picked up on "discrepancies" or "clues," which indicate that Moses did not write it • Biblical scholars (mostly priests) have grappled with these issues for centuries. • There was religious opposition to these studies (as they questioned tradition) throughout the centuries until the 20th century when in 1943 Pope Pius XII appealed for investigation into the truth as a way to strengthen Christian (and Catholic) understanding of religion. Biblical Scholars’ Conclusions • Because several of the sources are the product of an oral, collaborative tradition, as the so-called J and E texts allegedly are, the complexity is increased. • This is made more complex because apparently redactors, people who made up finished versions of the texts out of "original" pieces (perhaps different alternate versions, partial versions, or a nearly complete version), were involved. – Redactors may select, arrange, add links, insert explanations, or create their own narrative or framework in displaying the text. – To make things even more complex, one redactor's finished version can become another redactor's base or partial text. The Documentary Theory • The Documentary theory holds that a long process of creating, revising, deleting, editing, creating, etc. by a great number of people at various historical times produced the Bible. • This is thought to help explain the contradictions--to increase understanding and validate the text--for believers and skeptics. • A biblical scholar and former nun, Karen Armstrong, admits that "We cannot treat the Bible as a holy encyclopedia where we can look up information about the divine, because we are likely to find contradictory data in the very next chapter." • Her theory is that by “presenting readers with more than one story, the editors were demonstrating that no one human account can ever comprise the whole of divine truth." The Various Sources of "Old" Testament Biblical Writings • Explanation: there are (at least) four sources of the material in the torah: J Yahwist Anthropomorphic presentation of the deity Dramatic narratives Uses Yahweh as the name of God 10th Century B.C.E. E Elohist Uses Elohim as the name of God 9th-8th Centuries B.C.E. D Deuteronomic Found only in the book of Deuteronomy 622 B.C.E. P Priestly Overriding interest in ritual legislation 538-400 B.C.E. R Redactors Many different times over the history of the Bible The Creation Stories and their Contradictions When one reads the first chapters in Genesis, one finds two contradictory tales about creation, tales which explain what God created and in what order. The order of creation of men and women has been used historically to justify women’s lower status in society. • The first (Genesis 1-2:4) employs verbal repetition and is precisely and regularly organized (poetic). • The second story is no less skillful, but it is more down-to-earth. It uses vivid imagery to appeal to the mind's eye. Order of Creation, According to Genesis 1-2:4 Plants Animals Man and Woman Raphael’s God Separates Light from Darkness, 1517 Order of Creation, According to Genesis 2:5+ Man Plants Animals Woman Detail of the Creation of Adam from Michelangelo's The Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1509-1512 Consider How these Differences Would Change One’s Interpretation of the Stories • In Genesis 1:27-28 in modern translations male pronouns are used, but in the ancient Hebrew language no pronouns are associated with the verbs. “He” created refers to god, but “He” reflects the translators’ views of the world and religion. • The meaning of the passage: simultaneous creation of men and women. • In Genesis 2:7 the “man” in the text comes from the Hebrew adamah meaning from the earth; no masculine or feminine status is contained in the word. When translating these texts into Greek and Latin, however; the translators made masculine choices. • The fact remains however that the original writers apparently did not intend a gender association there. Man = earth creature, no gender association is involved. Lucas Cranach, the Elder’s Adam and Eve, 1533 • In Genesis 2:23, our version tells us that woman is second; however, the word still means “earth creations.” The woman in Hebrew is ishshah, while man is ish. This is the first time gender is associated with the creations. Inherently there is no unequal status as yet. – In fact, Phyllis Trible, a noted feminist biblical scholar, tells us, first, that this was a pun; the writers were having fun with the words. – Trible also points out that meaning was created in cyclical constructions in ancient Hebrew. The most important points were often given first and last. • Metaphor of God as Father – Old Testament 37 books, 10 times – New Testament Mark (70 C.E., 1 time) John (100-110 C.E., 73 times) • With this knowledge of the language, many of the traditional interpretations about Eve’s (and thus women’s) status as a subordinate to Adam have to be re-examined, as do the assumptions about the nature of God, Himor Her-self.