Monday, December 29, 2008

this blog: the womBman's Bible

This blog is to be my ongoing commentary on the Bible. I'm trying to encourage myself and my family members to read it again this year. My daughters and my son and my wife are going to help me translate it into English. They're mainly going to read it in English. I'm mainly making it into English from Greek.

We're outsiders to this Jewish text. None of us is a Jew (or speaks Hebrew, Aramaic, or Yiddish although I "read" some of the ancient stuff). And my daughters and my wife are even more "etic" (or more "outsider") than my son and I are because the text is written and canonized exclusively by men, to men, and for men.

I'm focusing on the woman's perspective of the Greek versions of the Bible. That's my focus (or those are my focuses) for at least two reasons: 1) translating opens up the text to outsiders, and 2) translations into the Hellene mother tongue have helped highlight the inherent male sexism of, in, and through the Bible.

My blog title is a play on the title of an earlier commentary of the Hebrew (and Christian) scriptures in America: The Woman's Bible: A Classic Feminist Perspective by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and several of her colleagues from around the world.

My "womBman" is a play on our English language word woman. Sheldon Vanauken, one of the first English speakers to coin the word sexism, also said:

A man defines himself primarily in terms of brain, a thinking--creature. Hand and brain, hence overlordship of earth. But he defines woman, despite her equal brain and deft hands, primarily as a biological creature - a vagina and a womb. -He does not expect or want from her anything much more. Consider for a moment the connotations of the word 'woman' with its sound of 'womb' combined with 'man'. Or the word 'female'. Compare the ring of "Here is a man" to "Here is a woman". The former suggests all that a man is: the proud thinker, the brave warrior, the creative artist, the builder, and, of course, the lover. But 'woman' and 'female' alike suggest no more than the biological roles - the wife or mistress or mother of man. Somehow the word 'girl' seems a bit freer of exclusively biological connotations, partly perhaps because it's an independent word, not a feminine variant on the masculine stem, but most!" because of what a girl is -free. Comparatively free, anyway. But regardless of words, to define woman as a biological creature is to err. If all men were stricken by some incapacitating disease, she could take over and run the world. It might even be a more peaceful world. She, too, is homo sapiens with the brain that will take man to the stars. What has happened here?

It is men who over the centuries have defined her as vagina and womb, Because of greater physical strength, and by means of that strength, men reduced her and limited her to her secondary and biological role, just as they also enslaved other men. But physical strength is of virtually no importance, in a world of machinery and brain power is all-important. It is time for a change. It is time to stop wasting half the brain power of the world in kitchen and nursery and secondary jobs -secretaries but never bosses with half the average income of men.

"Oh, but listen" -the cries go up- "this is what girls want. They could change it if they really wanted to; they have the vote. They want to be secondary, they want to lean on men, they want kids. Consider the material instinct! The nesting instinct! It's basic, man! Ask the chicks. Anyway, what about the sacred American home? Wow, we can't break up the home' Men need somebody to take care of them and build them up. That's what a woman is made for, that and kids. Sure the blacks and the Vietnamese (males, of course) have got to be free, but women are already as free as they want to be. They may have brains, but with them instinct is stronger, a whole lot stronger. They've got to have a home and kids or they're not fulfilled. Unmarried women aren't real women."

A myth. A myth like the racist myths we're all too familiar with, designed to explain and perpetuate the superiority of one race and the inferiority of another. But the sexist myth is the greatest and most pervasive myth the world has ever told itself- at once explaining, condoning, and perpetuating male superiority and female inferiority, meanwhile denying -craftiest touch of all! - that to be secondary in everything is at all inferior.
Cady Stanton published her comments on the Bible starting in around 1895 AD.

Vanauken published his comments (those comments above) in 1968 AD.

Jewish men began translating their Hebrew text into the Hellene mother tongue in Alexander the Great's Alexandria, Egypt in around 246BCE.

In many fascinating ways, this act of translating into Hellene opens up the text. It opens the text up into the debates over how Greek males (such as Alexander's teacher Aristotle) may control the Greek language for elite educated men of the Academy. The language control was to exclude not only women but also sophists, rhetoricians, ancient epic poets, more contemporary poets, colonists such as those in Soli who committed "solecisms" in writing, and BarBarians who spoke in foreign barbarisms.

The intended or unintended wordplay in the newly-translated Greek Jewish Bible (or ἡ βίβλος), and how such translatings allow women, or wombmen, to overhear the text as outsiders, are some of the focuses of this blog. In this blog, I'm also going to look at the New Testament (or new covenant) written by Jewish men using the Hellene mother tongue as their male text.

So it's "The womBman's Bible: an outsider's perspective on the Hebrew male's Hellene book."


  1. Very interesting blog name. Re this definition of man - cerebral, and woman - biological, add the counter element. Most men are scared stiff of their wombs. Their tender part is unknown to them and frightening. I am convinced they regain it by the faith of Christ - dying into the anointed's death and receiving life in their wombodies by the life-giving Spirit. You can take the generating genitive as subjective or objective or appositional. A similar effect occurs in the submission of the rational mind to something irrational like the gift of tongues. There is no power base here.

  2. You can take the generating genitive as subjective or objective or appositional.

    Bob - Your observation about the generating genitive, it's ambiguity, deserves a lot more thought. Thanks!

    A similar effect occurs in the submission of the rational mind to something irrational like the gift of tongues.

    And this observation reminds me of C.S. Lewis's observations in his essay "Transposition."

  3. jkg--

    your other picture was of a woman in white. i read somewhere that a woman dressed in white is sending the message 'adore me, but don't touch me.' i think, at least this morning, that it is ironic that male inerrantists treat 'the bible' as just such a woman in white.


  4. Scott,
    Thanks for the comments. The woman was standing between columns -- she was the Spartan Queen Gorgo from the film 300 -- speaking to men, yes dressed in white - although for the hearing by men already rather "touched" un-consensually by a man.

    Reminds me of Regina Spektor's Delilah to her Samson (those columns again under white "sheets"): "Beneath the sheets of paper lies my truth."


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