June 4, 2005

"Judith Christ."

The Anchoress, writing about the problem some feminists have with the use of male pronouns to refer to God, points to this book -- "Judith Christ Of Nazareth, The Gospels Of The Bible, Corrected To Reflect That Christ Was A Woman, Extracted From The Books Of Matthew, Mark, Luke, And John" -- which addresses the problem somebody somewhere apparently has with the idea that Jesus was male. Is it worth getting upset about that book? Maybe not. There are many versions of the Bible, some rewritten in slang or as comics. It's just another way to take in the material. It's not as if someone is messing up the only copy. If you're concerned about blasphemy or heresy, and you think this book is a problem, don't read it. I have much more of a problem with demands that shared rituals be rewritten to eliminate the masculine references to God -- even though the argument that God is not male is much stronger than the the argument that Jesus is not male.

The "Judith Christ" version of the Bible reminds me of Virginia Woolf's "Judith Shakespeare," in "A Room of One's Own." Except it's not like it at all. Woolf envisions a female equivalent of Shakespeare -- Shakespeare's sister -- and works out that she would never have achieved anything. But "Judith Christ" gets to do exactly the same things Jesus did, mostly because virtually no effort was put into the creation of the new book. Just a few "search and replace" commands would do the trick. It would take some imagination to come up with the Virginia Woolf-style treatment of "Judith Christ."


mcg said...

Given that the root of the Hebrew name "El Shaddai" for God, shad, is translated as "breast" in English; and given how God compares Himself (Herself?) metaphorically to a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing; and given how Genesis declares that both men and women are made in God's image: yes, I can accept that God is not a man. (or a woman.)

Jesus, though? Sorry ladies. But if women want to get upset about it, they can take some comfort in the fact that the church is called the Bride of Christ, and that includes us men too.

Interestingly, many textual critics use the fact that the various depictions of women in the Gospel accounts testify to their authenticity (in the sense that the authors beleived what they were writing). For example, He chose a Samarian woman (two strikes against her!) to share his "secret" with, and had her spread the news through her community. And at least one Gospel claims that women were the first to witness the resurrected Jesus. In that culture, women were not even considered valid witnesses for legal proceedings.

So if someone were flat out fabricating things, they would probably have stuck with the cultural norm and omitted the women altogether. That is, of course, unless they were using reverse psychology. Had that concept been invented yet? :-)

Troy said...

Sorry, but your exegesis of the "El Shaddai" is way off.

Here's what a widely used Hebrew lexicon (Strong's Hebrew Lexicon of the KJV)says of the original Hebrew.


"shad" is used 24 times in Scripture -- exclusively as what it is -- a woman's breast (or "teat")

The Hebrew is yddX -- transliterated as "Shadday".

If you're gonna make the argument use the right Hebrew word.

Troy said...

That reads a bit snippier than intended -- meaning snippy was in no way intended...

mcg said...

Well that's good, because I am by no means an expert, just passing along my understanding, right or wrong.

EddieP said...

I have absolutely no problem referring to God as She. In fact I often do. I might possibly be convinced that Jesus was a Judith, but there's just no upside for me in trying to rationalize that.

Chris Nystrom said...

Sexuality is not just an accident of biology. It is part of God's plan. The relationship between man and woman is re-telling of the relationship between God and man (basically the good news of the Gospel). God is male because he fulfills the male role in the relationship (leader, lover, protector, provider). He is the prototype for all men to follow. He is the real male, and it has nothing to do with the penis. It is no accident that God is referred to as male in the Bible. This does not mean men are superior in any way. They just have a different role to play in the drama than women do.

leeontheroad said...

Michael's not strictly wrong, though there's a preference for translating "El Shaddai" as "God of the Mountain," more usefully "God Almighty." From the link:

"The patriarchs knew God primarily as El Shaddai (Exod 6:3). While the origin and meaning of this name are uncertain (see discussion below) its significance is clear. The name is used in contexts where God appears as the source of fertility and life."

Strong's lexicon, while exhaustive and seminal, is also *for the KJV* -- a beautiful but not scholarly translation, Strong is eclisped in modern scholarship by Green's (ed) Interlinear Bible, which includes references to Strong's concordance.

So, Troy, that "shad" means "breast," tells us nothing about what the adjectival "Shaddai" means. Also, what of the numbering: "Excluding the Book of Genesis and Exod. 6:2-3, [El Shaddai] occurs elsewhere in the OT thirty-five times, twenty nine of which are in the Book of Job." That's from Abingdon's Interpreter's Dictionary (1962, 1999 rep.)

Troy said...

I have no claim on biblical scholarship and use a lexicon in my own studies. Amazing that my offhand knowledge of OT Hebrew is not perfect!

Strong also does NIV. My main point was that to claim "God" = "breast" to show that somehow God was really beng portrayed as a female is a stretch. Just because "shad" is subsumed in the transliterated "El Shaddai". Scripture is already watered down enough by Christians to avoid "unpleasantness".

It's possible "shad" is the root for "shadday". It's also possible Michael Jackson is not a freak.

mcg said...

Well, I certainly never meant to lead us down this road. I only meant to point out that there are a variety of feminine references to God in Scripture---some subtle, some not so---to support the notion that God (or more specifically God the Father, if you are a trinitarian) is neither male nor female.