Male Dominance in the Old Testament
1. Jewish society had developed its own social myth of male predominance. This social myth was quite naturally incorporated in Sacred Scripture. Just as the flat earth theory was part and parcel of the creation accounts without implying a divine approval of such a theory, so the social organization imprinted itself on various religious texts without falling under the scope of its teaching.
2. Both in the Old Testament and New Testament times the Jews were a male dominant society. All relationships in the family centred round the father (the patriarch).
3. As in other societies, we find also with the Jews a strong cultural myth designed to underline mans central position. The workings of this myth can be demonstrated from the endless elaborations in extra-biblical Jewish thinking. The inferiority of woman is brought out by making Adams creation a glorious success, while Gods various attempts at making woman are presented as a series of failures.
4. We need not be surprised that the social myth of male predominance affected the following aspects of Sacred Scripture:
(a) The representation of the divinity. The world of the gods represented in mans imagination, is one of the ways in which social myth is reinforced. For this reason it is only natural that Yahweh was spoken of as if he were a man and that Christ could not have been understood as an incarnation of God, unless he was a man.
(b) Sacramental Liturgy. The rules restricting the priestly ministry to men in the Old Testament (Lev 8), allowing women access on1y to part of the temple and attaching ritual uncleanliness to childbirth (Lev 12, 1-8: 15, 19-24), are illustrations of a liturgical expression given to the social myth. Traces of this can still be seen in early Christian uneasiness about full participation of women in the liturgical assembly (1 Cor 11, 2-16; 14,33).
(c) Family ethics. The duties of the father of a family towards his wife (Sir 9, 1-9; 36, 21-27) or towards his children (Sir 7, 22-26; 22, 3-6; 42, 9-11), of a wife towards her husband (Sir 25, 13-26; 26, 1-18) and of children towards their parents (Sir 3, 1-16; 7, 27-28; 25, 3-6) are all explicitations of the social structure enshrined in the myth.
The early Christian family code still reflects the same social values when it describes the role of husbands (1 Pet 3, 7; Col 3, 19, Eph 5, 25-26), wives (1 Pet 3, 1-6; Col 3, 18; Eph 5. 22-23; 1 Tim 2, 9-15) and children (Col 3, 20; Eph 6, 1-3).
(d) Religious symbolism. The image of the marnage between Yahweh and Israel belongs to this sphere (Hos 3, 1-5; etc.). Idolatry is compared to fornication and adultery (Ez 16, 15-43; etc.). God speaks also as a father punishing his children (Is 1, 2-6; 43, 5-7; etc.)
The all pervasiveness of this pattern of values is due to the fundamental role played by the social myth in constructing society from within.
5. From a Scriptural point of view it is important that we recognize this social aspect so that we may carefully distinguish it from the revealed message. Gods Word to humankind had of necessity to be couched in human language and to be understood in the cultural thought pattern of the people who received the message. It would be a fatal theological blunder to confuse the human medium of expression with the divine message itself.
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