Series-Subjects Relevant to an Informed Opinion about Christian Women in
First created in January, 1996, Revised January 10, 2007
Baptist Women in Ministry http://www.bwim.info/index.php/welcome
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of bibliography or sites to include may be sent to
Carolyn Goodman Plampin
Coordinator Subjects Relevant to an Informed Opinion
1220 Vienna Dr., #504
Sunnyvale, CA 94089-2007
Master of Teaching, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil, March 20, 1968
Master of Divinity, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, June 2, 1978
Missionary to Brazil of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1957-1988
Academic dean (without title) and professor, Instituto Biblico Batista, A.B. Deter and
Seminário Teológico Batista do Paraná, Curitiba, 1959-1979
Academic dean and professor, Seminário de Educacao Crista, Recife, 1980-1986
ATTRIBUTION OF SEX TO GOD
THE SYMBOLIC MEANING OF SEX
For untold millenniums people conceptualized and
worshiped God as female. This religion "existed and flourished in the
Near and Middle East for thousands of years before the arrival of the
patriarchal Abraham, first prophet of the male
diety Yahweh. Archaeologists have traced the worship of the Goddess back to
the Neolithic communities of about 7000 B.C., some to the Upper Paleolithic
cultures of about 25,000 B.C. From the time of its Neolithic origins, its
existence was repeatedly attested to until well into Roman
times," so says Stone, pp. 9-10. This ancient Goddess religion was
finally suppressed. "The eastern Emperor Justinian, who himself could
neither read nor write, closed the oracle (Delphi) and the schools of
philosophy in Greece in 529 A.D., after which indescribably tragic date there
were no more educated women in Greece for well over a thousand years, ergo,
no more priestesses" so says Goodrich, p. 203. For what it meant to be a
pagan priest see Plutarch, who was roughly contemporary with
Paul. For how ancient women were losing status
see Aeschylus and Sermonides.
has left profound marks on the Judeo-Christian thought about women,
especially because of the prolonged and bloody battle to exerminate it. There
are many examples of this in the Old Testament, such as Elijah's confrontation of the 450 prophets of
Baal but not of the 400 prophets of the Asherah (I Kings 18:19-46), and Jehu's slaughter of the prophets, worshipers
and priests of Baal (II Kings 10:18-28). Instead of just rejecting the pagan
theology, Christian thought has rejected woman, sexuality, and marriage.
Two of the subjects that need to be studied urgently are
the influence of the reaction against the pagan religion on our understanding
of the attribution of sex to God and the symbolic meaning of sex.
In the Goddess religion God was conceptualized as female
and women were priestesses and representatives of the goddess. Judeo-Christian
thought made God male and men priests and representatives of God. It was not
because women were considered weak and unintelligent that they were
repressed, but because they had powerful voices in the pagan religion. The
argument that women were weak and unintelligent was developed later in order
to justify repressing women. To say that God is like a father or like a
mother is biblical. Those who think that it is correct to call God father,
but not to call God mother, must understand that you ere in the exact same
measure when doing either one if you have in mind attributing maleness or
femaleness to God.
From the Jewish point of view, Patai says it very well:
As for God, He is not merely the One and Only God, but also eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, aphysical (and therefore invisible), inscrutable, and imcomprehensibe, as well as just, good, compassionate, merciful and benevolent. Since, being pure spirit, he is without body, he possesses no physical attributes and hence no sexual traits. To say that God is either male or female is therefore completely impossible from the viewpoint of traditional Judaism. As Maimonides, the greatest medieval Jewish philosoipher, put it, "God is not a body, nor can bodily attributes be ascribed to him, and He has no likeness at all."
Yet one factor, a linguistic one, defied all theological repugnance to the attribution of bodily qualities to God. It is in the nature of the Hebrew language that every noun has either the masculine or feminine gender (except a very few which can take either). The two Biblical names of God, Yahweh (pronounced, out of reverence for its great holiness, as "Adonai" and usually translated as "the Lord") and Elohim (or briefly El: translated as "God") are masculine. "He" when a verb describes that He did something or an adjective qualifies Him, they appear in the masculine form (in Hebrew there are male and female forms for verbs and adjectives). Thus, every verbal statement about God conveyed the idea that He was masculine. Most people, of course, never stopped to think about this, but every Hebrew-speaking individual from early childhood was imbued with the idea that God was a masculine deity. No subsequent teaching about the aphysical, incomprehensible or transcendental nature of the deity could eradicate this early mental image of the masculne God.
Patai, THE HEBREW GODDESS, pp. 21-22.
1. In the goddess religion sex was
believed to be a way of getting in touch with the divine. The sexual
relations of the high priestess were rigidly controlled as it was believed
that she passed divinity to the man with whom she had sexual relations and
that he could, in turn, pass this on. In order to avoid this, in earlier
times he was killed but the more humane method of castration evolved.
It is well known
that some of the goddess priestesses were assigned to the task of having
sexual relations with men who came to the temples to "sacrifice"
and gave an offering for this "sacrifice." This was such a marked
part of the pagan worship that apostacy in the Old Testament was called
"prostitution" and "adultery." In the New Testament, Paul says: "Do do not know that your
bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it
never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is
one body with her? For He says, 'The two will become one flesh'" (I
was a great dicotomy of thought on the part of Christians about sex in the
pagan religion, in that it was rejected for its sexual licence on the one
hand and admired for its virginity on the other. The Vestal Virgins of Rome are examples of virginity which was
thought to be a subject of national security, so much so that they were
buried alive for breaking their vow of virginity. Christians adopted two
attitudes: rejection of sexual license and acceptance of virginity as a way
to serve God. Many treatisies were written in the early church on virginity
for both women and men, and the Roman Catholic church continues vows of
chastity for nuns and priests today.
2. In the goddess
religion power and position were passed by inheritance from mother to
daughter. The daughter of the high priestess became the high priestess. The
temple was the seat of religious and civil government. Jezabel is an example
of a daughter whose mother was the high priestess of Sidon.
Judaism evolved the priesthood from the family of Aaron
and their servants from the family of Levi.
Regulations concerning the high priest included: "A widow, or a divorced
woman, or one is is profaned by harlotry, these he may not take; but rather
he is to marry a virgin of his own people; that he may not profane his
offspring among his people: for I am the Lord who sanctifies him" (Lev.
21: 10, 14-15). The patriarchal family system was evolved in Grego-Roman and
Judeo-Christian thought. Today it is common to believe that men have always
been in charge when patriarchalism developed in Jewish and Greco-Roman
history, and, as has been noted, written "history began at Sumer"
some twenty-five centuries before.
3. For pagan women, in some places and some times, the
first sexual experience was to be in a temple and dedicated to the goddess.
Judeo-Christian practice demanded virginity of women. However, the book of
Hosea needs to be restudied to see what light it sheds on how to deal with
women who were called "prostitutes" but may have been
"priestesses" or women who had dedicated their sexuality to the
goddess. The loss of virginity would have had theological implications.
4. For pagan men, in
some places and some times, castration was the way in which they dedicated
themselves as priests of the goddess. The "Galli" of Cybele and Attis in Asia Minor are examples of this. Godwin
says: "The Emperor Domitian
in the first century AD made castration a capital crime, but did not succeed
in preventing the practice any more than Hadrian, who tried
to prohibit circumcision; a symbolic substitute used by ancient Egyptians and
Arabs as well as Jews" (p. 20). Plutarch tells what a
priviledge being a priest of the goddess was. We need studies of the eunuchs
in the ancient world to help us understand what men received in exchange for
castration and how vows of chastity relate to castration and circumcision.
A serious study
of this religion needs to be undertaken in Christian colleges and seminaries
in order to separate Christocentric teachings from reactions to the pagan
Bibliography on Ancient Goddess Religion
Aeschylus. "Queens, Goddesses, Furies," Selections from the Eumenides, in Clark, Elizabeth and Herbert Richardson. WOMEN AND RELIGION, A FEMINIST SOURCEBOOK OF CHRISTIAN THOUGHT. New York: Harper and Row, 1977, pp.15-25.
Dawson, Patsy Rae. Why God's People Make the Best Lovers. http://gospelthemes.com/lovers.htm
Gimbutas, Marija. THE GODDESSES AND GOD OF OLD EUROPE, 6500-3500 B.C., MYTHS AND CULT IMAGES. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982.
Godwin, Joscelyn. MYSTERY RELIGIONS IN THE ANCIENT WORLD. Cambridge: Harper and Row, Publishers, San Francisco, 1981.
Goodrich, Norma Lorre. PRIESTESSES. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989.
Hayter, Mary. "Part One: Sexuality in God and the Nature of Priesthood,"
pp. 5-79 in THE NEW EVE IN CHRIST, The Use and Abuse of the Bible in the Debate about Women in the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987.
Monagan, Pat. A Goddess Bibliography. http://www.iit.edu/~phillips/personal/basic/goddess.html
Ochs, Carol. Behind the Sex o God, Toward a New Consciousness -- Transcending Matriarchy and Patriarchy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1977.
Patai, Raphael. THE HEBREW GODDESS. New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1967.
Plurabelle, Anna Livia. The Book of the Goddess. http://www.sacred-texts.com/wmn/bog/bog00.htm
Plutarch. "On Isis and Osiris," in Grant, Frederick C., ed. HELLENISTIC RELIGIONS, THE AGE OF SYNCRETISM. The Library of Religion, Vol. II. New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1953, pp. 80-95.
Sermonides Amorgos (4th Century B.C.). "The Greatest Ill That Zeus Hath Made," in Kaplan, Justin, ed. WITH MALICE TOWARD WOMEN. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1952, pp. 14-18.
Shlain, Alphabet versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image http://www.bodhitree.com/lectures/Shlain.html
Stone, Merlin. WHEN GOD WAS A WOMAN. New York: The Dial Press, 1976, also New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977.
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