Indigenous Judaism, Pauline Christianity and Feminism by Sherrie D. Larch

Writers Note: This was a college paper I had to do comparing two different ideologies.

Eve 1

Who should control a woman’s body, mind and soul? Is Eve equal to Adam? Throughout history women have been treated like second class citizens; property of men. They have been blamed for being evil seductresses and sorceresses; leading the male sex to ruin, through black magic and feminine wilds. They have been called too intelligent, as well as, too ignorant, and too strong, as well as, too weak; to have basic human rights for themselves. They have been misunderstood, hated, abused, killed and in many ways totally ignored, but still blamed for all the world‘s ills; controlled in one way or the other, body, mind and soul; for thousands of years. These questions have especially been asked since the beginning of the three main Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam which are for the most part patriarchal in nature. The Apostle Paul‘s form of Christianity, also called Pauline Christianity reinforced a patriarchal ideology.

In Pauline Christianity women are viewed as just a part of a man’s body, not owning her own; just a simple rib. This belief comes down from the teachings of the Apostle Paul and misinterpretation, through language translation and biases, and by Church leaders’ interpretations of the creation story of Adam and Eve in Genesis. In the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) Genesis 2:21 and 2:22 states: “So Hashem God cast a deep sleep upon the man and he slept; and He took one of his sides and He filled in flesh in its place. Then Hashem God fashioned the side that He had taken from the man into a women, and He brought her to the man”. In the true translation from Hebrew to English, half of the being Adam is taken to make the being Eve; not just a single rib. This means in the unchanged indigenous Jewish religion, if interpreted correctly in Hebrew not Greek, man and woman are two equal halves of what was once a hermaphroditic being, a being that was both masculine and feminine in body. The equality of the sexes in the original writings of Judaism is also supported by Genesis 1:27, which states: “So God created Man in his image, in the image of God. He created him; male and female He created them”. On a spiritual level God is seen as both masculine and feminine, viewing both sexes as equal and important to the spiritual and physical worlds.

Both Protestant and Catholic forms of Pauline Christianity have long banned the equal rights of women throughout history, using false interpretations of Jewish biblical text and gender biased in the Christian bible, to support their rules and laws. Pope Gregory I (540-604) stated: “Woman is slow in understanding and her unstable and naïve mind renders her by way of natural weakness to the necessity of a strong hand in her husband. Her “use” is twofold; [carnal] sex and motherhood.”Church leaders barred women from equal access to education, jobs, medical treatment, owning property and many other basic rights. Her mind, body and soul belonged to her male relatives or her husband. A woman’s husband could beat her into submission under Christian law, because she was considered just a child mentally, and the daughter of Eve, the deceiver; spiritually. Rabbi Gershon Winkler writes: “Ruling class European men looked at and treated their women basically as they did their African slaves…” A woman was not seen as a complete human being without a husband, she was incomplete. John Wesley (1703-1791) wrote: “Wife: Be content to be insignificant. What loss would it be to God or man had you never been born.” Jewish leaders on the other hand viewed the role of women as being important in Jewish society. Hugh Fogelman states: “Judaism recognizes that women are endowed with a greater degree of “binah“(intuition, understanding, intelligence) than men.” The woman was not just a vessel for future generations, but an important factor in her community, in both physical and spiritual matters. Jewish women were not only wives and mothers, but they also were community leaders and businesswomen. Fogelman writes: “For example, Jewish women had the right to buy, sell, and own property, and make their own contracts.” Women were also viewed as equal to their husbands. Fogelman writes: “Jewish women are held in high esteem in marriage.” A wife must be taken care of and loved with respect by her husband, and any type of martial abuse, physical or mental, is breaking Jewish law (including rape). A woman is viewed as a complete human being, not just a child, not just a mere rib. Fogelman states: “In Torah/Judaism, woman is the completion of man, but, woman needs no completion herself. That is why a woman says the blessing, each morning, “Blessed are You, Hashem, King of the universe, Who has made me according to His will.” Man needs woman for completion, man needs circumcision for elevation, but woman needs nothing except what is within her, which was granted her by God.”

A woman’s choices throughout history were very limited, wife and mother. Motherhood came with many dangers, without proper care many had reproductive health problems that shorten their lives or they died young in childbirth, from multiple pregnancies without limit; most without proper care for both the mother and baby. Birth control and pain control during labor was against Christian doctrine, because of the Christian belief of “original sin“, where the pains and suffering of birth is God’s curse on the female gender. Martin Luther (1483-1546) the German leader of the Protestant Reformation said: “If they {women} become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that’s why they are there.” In the Jewish faith there is no concept of “original sin“, men and women are all born inherently good; clean slates at birth. In pregnancy the mother’s life comes first, The Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 69b states that: “the embryo is considered to be mere water until the fortieth day. Afterwards, it is considered subhuman until it is born.” Abortion was never taken lightly in Judaism, because of the potential for life, but when it came to the physical and mental well-being of the mother it was permitted; because a fetus does not receive full personhood until half way out of the birth canal, when it takes its first breath of life on its own. Pain relief in childbirth was also allowed, to ease the mother through nature’s pain, which was not considered some curse from God; children were considered a blessing not a curse. Many Christian women during this time used Jewish doctors and midwives, for reproductive health care. This could be dangerous to the Christian woman, who was breaking Christian laws on procreation, and the Jew, who was viewed as a child of Satan; both were seen as breaking Christian laws and crossing ethnic boundaries.

A woman’s soul was also always being questioned, some church leaders even questioned if she even had a true soul. Some spoke of the female being somewhere between an animal and her male counterpart. Some even spoke of the female sex as filth. Tertullian (160-220) an early Christian philosopher stated: “Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are the devil’s doorway. You led astray one whom the devil would not dare attack directly. It was your fault that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and rags.” Church leaders believed that women were weaker both spiritually and sexually than men, believing that the female gender was more prone to the evil side of spirituality, and that women were naturally sexually attracted to the devil; which controlled them to the point of demonic possession. In the past a women who believed in gender equality was often silenced by fire for being a witch. It was believed that a woman must be listening to the devil, to think of herself as equal to a man. Clement of Alexandria (150-215) stated: “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.” Any religion that celebrated womanhood, the feminine side of God or viewed women equal to men; were considered blasphemy against Christianity. This included Judaism, some forms of Christianity, and folk beliefs that focused on the Divine Feminine. Rabbi Winkler writes; “For example, Jews had to tone down the roles of their women in religious life and function to avoid suspicions of witchcraft, a suspicion held of all women — their religious affiliation notwithstanding — who exhibited independence, learning, and mystical prowess”. A woman was always under suspicion of devil worship by Christian authorities, just because she had the misfortune of being born a female.

Today, women are gaining equal rights throughout the world, especially European countries and here in United States, because of women suffrage and modern feminism. Women are beginning to be released from the role that Simone De Beauvoir called: “the Eternal Feminine”, the saintly mother or the perverse man-hating sorceress. Education is open to women in every discipline, they have choices in careers, even those once offered only to men; as well as marriage and motherhood or both. Women have the right in most of the developed world to birth control, and safe medical help throughout pregnancy, and controlling their own bodies and fates but the world could still do better for poor women and women living still in oppressive regions. Women can go into political and leadership roles, and make a difference in the world around them. Today many, Christian denominations like, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian and others, view a woman as equal to a man, having female ministers, teachers, and religious leaders. Renewal, Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative, Humanistic, Kabbalah (mystical Judaism), some Orthodox, and various other forms of Judaism; also view women as equal to men. Women are becoming Rabbis, teachers, and religious leaders in most of Judaism’s denominations, except for Orthodox. The Jewish people are slowly regaining the Divine Feminine, which was once lost. Pagan religions, which celebrate both the God and Goddess, are making a comeback throughout the world. Women as well as men do not have to fear being put to death in a large part of the world, because of believing in equality of the sexes.

But there are still many parts of the world that women are still living under violent patriarchal religious rules. There are those in the Europe and the Untied States whose views mirror the darker side of Christianity‘s past, viewing the female gender as the weak, sinful, and the dark other, to the male sex. That must be controlled and put down to a different level of existence. Many Conservative Christians today who follow Pauline Christianity view feminism as a demonic philosophy, which is anti-Christian; going against ancient biblical sex roles of being wife, mother, helpmate and caretaker. The female sex is valued for the womb inside her, and the future generations that will come from it. They believe that the female is just the weaker piece of the male sex, without a say in anything that might affect her, physically, mentally, and spiritually, believing that only her male counterpart should make the decisions that affect her body, mind and soul. Women are not to hold leadership roles, or careers that place them over men. To step out of this role a woman is considered evil, separating her from the path to the heavens. Feminism is viewed as dangerous to the biblical order of things because it stands for women’s right and for women to control their own lives and bodies Pat Robertson stated: “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” Robertson’s viewpoint is a mirror image of Christian leaders throughout history, on the dangers of equality of the sexes, and the evil female. Feminism is also viewed as cheapening the roles of wife and motherhood. Austin Cline writes: “Many people in modern America complain that motherhood and raising children have been devalued by the feminist movement and the efforts to get women into the workplace. These same people, however, are the religious conservatives who have throughout America’s history been responsible for the actual devaluing of women’s contributions to society. Motherhood and raising children haven’t been devalued because of feminism and women working in the corporate world; instead, they have been devalued precisely because they are seen as “women’s work” and unsuitable for men.”

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