caraboska (caraboska) wrote,

Why is a nice Christian girl like you wearing hijab? Part VI: What wouldn't it mean?

In the intervening years, I had of course continued to think about what Scripture teaches about men and women. By this time I had already concluded that head coverings are not obligatory for Christian women. See, I had gone through all the old Scriptures I mentioned before and concluded that given what God expects of all persons regardless of gender, any gender differences that existed had to have some sort of temporal basis. And indeed - I took cognizance of the fact that under both Roman and Greek civil law, men had life-and-death authority over their wives and children.

Beyond this, I went back to the Creation story, in particular Genesis 1:26-28

 26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

 27 So God created man in his own image,
       in the image of God he created him;
       male and female he created them.

 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

and 2:18-24,

18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

 19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
      But for Adam
no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

 23 The man said,
       "This is now bone of my bones
       and flesh of my flesh;
       she shall be called 'woman,
       for she was taken out of man."

 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

and with the aid of a nice commentary on this matter that I found online (I think it's this one), I figured out that from the beginning:

1. All humans regardless of gender are created in God's image.

2. Dominion over the earth was given to both equally.

3. The help (עֵזֶר ezer) that a woman provides for a man is of a type similar to that provided by God to human beings in many places in the Tanakh (same word used for both). This type of help implies, if anything, superiority - certainly not submission or inferiority.

4. The adjective used to modify it (כְּנֶגְדּוֹ kenegdo) therefore, if anything, is 'toning it down' to equality rather than connoting submission.

In other words, anyone who is arguing that a one-way authority relationship between man and woman is of eternal nature, rooted in the Creation itself, is off-base.

This is why, if anything, I view Paul as a great feminist. He it is who pointed out that just as woman came from man, now man comes from woman. He it is who taught that all are supposed to be subject to all, regardless of gender. I could say more, but we would then be getting into the question of woman's role in the church - as opposed to in the marital home. If he is speaking of differences, it is more descriptive.

The fact of the matter is that like it or not, civil law was as it was, local custom was as it was, and he was being realistic - basically saying 'Here's how to make the best of a, from God's standpoint, less than ideal situation.' He was telling men they have actual obligations towards their wives. He was telling women they are allowed to study. He was giving reasons for this which indicated the clear foundations for an egalitarian view of men and women, as it was in the beginning. For his time, he was quite revolutionary.

Someone will cite Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said,
       "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
       with pain you will give birth to children.
       Your desire will be for your husband,
       and he will rule over you."

First of all, this was after the Fall. Secondly, we already know what the status was before the Fall. And furthermore, we know what Jesus' attitude towards 'how it was at the beginning' was:

 3Some Pharisees came to [Jesus] to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

 4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female, 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

 7"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

 8Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:3-9)

Jesus is arguing here that the reason for not allowing divorce is 'how it was from the beginning'. Even the fact that the Torah (God's Law!) permits it is not sufficient grounds for it to be permissible in the new order that he is ushering in.  So if we take what was from the beginning as normative, it becomes obvious that 'he will rule over you' is not prescriptive, but descriptive.

Then there is the matter of what Jesus teaches about people ruling over other people:

42Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10: 42-45)

In other words, if a man is 'ruling over' his wife, it is disobedience to the teaching of Jesus. It is not only not rooted in the Creation - it is evidence of sin at work!

While I think of it, a couple of years ago I undertook to learn Koine Greek so that I would be able to read the New Testament for myself. Am still working on Hebrew. At any rate, I have had few surprises in reading the Greek for myself. The one HUGE exception left me thunderstruck. It concerns Genesis 2:24 - which is cited in various places in the New Testament. So, here is a representative NT version:

αντι τουτου καταλειψει ανθρωπος τον πατερα αυτου και την μητερα και προσκολληθησεται προς την γυναικα αυτου και εσονται οι δυο εις σαρκα μιαν (Ephesians 5:31)

And here is the original version straight from the Torah:

עַל-כֵּן, יַעֲזָב-אִישׁ, אֶת-אָבִיו, וְאֶת-אִמּוֹ; וְדָבַק בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ, וְהָיוּ לְבָשָׂר אֶחָד

Now, there were two things that really hit me like a ton of bricks:

1. The use of the word ανθρωπος (anthropos).

This is a generic word meaning 'human being'. The word for 'male person' in Greek is ανηρ (aner) - the Hebrew equivalent of which is אִישׁ (ish), the word used in the Torah. In other words, the verse is conceived of as much more generic, applying to everyone, in the New Testament. (The other possible interpretation would be, of course, that women are not human. But we already covered that before).

2. The grammar behind the verb προσκολληθησεται (proskollethesetai - to be attached).

See, in Greek each verb has three voices (unless it is one of a small number of 'defective' ones). To put it simply: active (you perform an action), passive (an action is performed on you) and middle (you perform an action on yourself). I would have expected a middle voice here, given the way it is normally translated. But no... it's passive. If it were middle, my research shows that it has to be either προσκολλασεται (proskollasetai) or προσκολλησεται (proskollesetai). At any rate, without the -θη- (-the-) infix.

So then I took a look at the Hebrew verb used in the Torah (דָבַק - dabaq). Now, since I do not know much Hebrew, it took me a great deal of effort to figure this out - especially since the Hebrew verb system has essentially nothing in common with any of the languages with which I am currently acquainted. But finally I found a paradigm in my Biblical Hebrew reference book (Kelley's 'Biblical Hebrew') which gave me the info I was looking for: it is in the active voice.

So basically, the Torah is portraying marriage as something the man does to the woman, while the New Testament portrays it as something God does to both parties. I was thunderstruck to see the huge paradigm shift here. Finally I had a good answer to those who claim that the man is supposed to take the initiative...

The reason I go into all this detail is that I needed to be really sure it would not have any connotations of one-way authority for me personally if I were to put on hijab.

Part I  Part II  Part III  Part IV  Part V  Part VII  Part VIII
Tags: caraboska, god, head covering, jesus, male-female relationships, man, scripture, some other time, woman
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