The Silent Scripture

16 Jan

Those who care about such things like to point out there’s a lack of women in the Bible… or least, named women. After all, why does Zerubbabel get a mention, but not Z’s wife? The reasons given for this are… rather surprising.

I was inspired by reading another blogger going through a man and a woman from the bible every day and giving a little blurb on it. My first thought was, “Gee, he’s going to run out of women soon,” but that got me thinking, “Why are there fewer women mentioned in the Bible?” There are several theories.

Women are Busy with Real Jobs

Serach, wife of Zerubbabel, is too busy taking care of Z’s four sons and three daughters to bother going out into the desert to listen to angels. The founder of Chassidism, the Baal Shem Tov, was able to run around 18th Century Poland with his pack of disciple rabbis because his wife was running the inn and raising the kids. The Prophet Mohammad (Praise Be Upon Him) married a rich older woman, which gave him the time to devote to listening to the Angel Gabriel.

Or to give a better example, I read a fictionalization about the white mother of Naduah, the last principal chief of the Comanches. Two ladies were talking about a man giving himself a new name of power after going on a vision quest. The main character asks her friend, “Why haven’t you changed your name?” To which she bawks, “What would I need a new name? Oh, spirit, give me the power to sew better!” Then she breaks out laughing at the idea.

In this theory, we don’t read about Serach taking care of Z’s kids and household because it doesn’t make the headlines.

The Bible Doesn’t Waste Space

The reason given for why there are endless genealogies in the Bible is because they are important to letting us know where we come from. So even if Zerubbabel shows up for only one line, it’s important to indicate how his descendants relate to him and his ancestors. You’d think if they bothered to add “and he had many sons and daughters,” they could bother to add Serach’s name as well.

Those third/fourth wave feminists who feel the need to call it “hxstory” or “herstory” (even those “history” is a Greek word, dummy) would point out the marginalization of women, and they have some argument. After all, when the Hebrews walk through the Red Sea, the “Song at the Sea” (Exodus 15) is most of the chapter. Miriam is specifically mentioned for two verses (Ex 15:20-22) of this rather poetic retelling of what just happened, so I don’t buy this argument. However, if I wanted to defend the theory, I could say, “Miriam just said it better and shorter.” Which gets to the answer I prefer…

Later Editors Excised Women’s Stories

What people often forget is that like most pieces of ancient literature, such as Homer’s Iliad, the Bible was only passed down through oral tradition. It wasn’t written down. So when King Josiah comes to power, and his decides to cause a reformation of the religion, the new king’s eager priest supporters want a standardized text. The problem is that… doesn’t exist. So they start this stuff down, and if you believe the German critics, there are three different stories being told–the Priests (P), those who called God “Yahweh” (J–because Germans don’t have a Y in their alphabet), and those who call God “Elohim” (E). Then Deuteronomy is all one author (D) because it was “found” during Josiah’s reign and has a lot of stuff regarding kings. Fancy that.

This is just one example–even when you have a standardized text, the simple act of rewriting it again and again leads to a lot of mistakes. Any modern translation of the New Testament has many footnotes that say “some texts say X.” The Koran also was an oral history, and if you believe it was originally written down by the Prophet’s scribe Zayd ibn Thabit, it still had to be codified during the reign of the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, twenty years after the Prophet’s death.

So you’re a priest who is trying to avoid hand cramp, you’ve got this Song at the Sea you’re writing down, and now you’re trying to figure out how to cram in Miriam’s song. You can’t leave it out–too many people know it. So you just combine them, but because you’re a guy, you don’t think it’s THAT important. This theory implies that women’s stories were far more common before codification and they just got left out… or the ones we have radically shortened.

Okay, I’ve bloviated on as much as I should on this topic–some people have dedicated their whole lives to studying this. What do you think? Do you like one of my theories or do you have a better one? Let me know in the comments below!

One Response to “The Silent Scripture”

  1. Cindy Georgakas January 16, 2021 at 9:20 am #

    great post.. i like that.. woman are doing their real jobs. Hey can you do me a favor I’ve had W.P. issues.. Didn’t see you on my Heaven Meets Hell Fun Fri-Yay post and I usually do. It’s a collab and I fouled up. It was a fun one to do and would love it you would check it out.. thanks

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