In the #MeToo era, theologians publish the “Women’s Bible” – Books
Tired of seeing their sacred texts used to justify the subjugation of women, a group of feminist theologians from across the Protestant-Catholic divide have joined forces to write A Women’s Bible.
As the #MeToo movement continues to speak out against sexual abuse across cultures and industries, some scholars of Christianity are clamoring for an account with the biblical interpretations that they believe have entrenched negative images of women.
The women we know from translations and interpretations of biblical texts are maids, prostitutes or saints, seen dancing for a king or kneeling to kiss the feet of Jesus.
But while many feminists have called for the Bible, Christianity, and religion to be put aside, an eclectic group of theologians instead insist that if properly interpreted, the Good Book can be a tool to promote emancipation of women.
Read also: The women of Twitter who fuel the #MeToo campaign in India
– ‘Feminist values’ –
“Feminist values and reading the Bible are not incompatible,” insisted Lauriane Savoy, one of the two Geneva theology professors behind the push to write. A Women’s Bible (A Women’s Bible), which was published in October.
The professor at the Geneva Faculty of Theology, founded by the father of Calvinism himself in 1559, said the idea for the book came after she and her colleague Elisabeth Parmentier noticed how most people knew or understood little of the biblical texts.
“A lot of people thought they were completely overwhelmed, unrelated to today’s values of equality,” the 33-year-old man, standing under the towering sculptures of Jean Calvin and ‘other Protestant founders on the campus of the University of Geneva.
In order to counter such notions, Savoy and Parmentier, 57, joined forces with 18 other theologians from various countries and Christian denominations.
Scholars have created a collection of texts challenging traditional interpretations of biblical scriptures that present female figures as weak and subordinate to the men around them.
Parmentier points to a passage from the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus visits two sisters, Martha and Mary.
“This says that Martha is performing ‘service’, which has been interpreted to mean that she served the food, but the Greek word diakonia can also have other meanings, for example it could mean that she was a deacon.” , she stressed.
– Overthrowing religious orthodoxy –
They are not the first to suggest more female-friendly scripture reading.
Already in 1898, American suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a committee of 26 other women drafted Women’s Bible, aimed at overthrowing the religious orthodoxy that women should be submissive to men.
The two Geneva theology professors say they were inspired by this work, and had initially planned to translate it simply into French.
But after determining that the 120-year-old text was too outdated, they decided to create a new work that could resonate in the 21st century.
“We wanted to work ecumenically,” said Parmentier, noting that about half of the women involved in the project are Catholics and the other half from a number of branches of Protestantism.
In the introduction to the Women’s bible, the authors said the chapters were meant to “scrutinize changes in Christian tradition, things that have remained hidden, biased translations, partial interpretations.”
Read also: Eight months later, #MeToo to conquer the USA
– ‘Persistent patriarchal readings’ –
They take to task “the persistent patriarchal readings that have justified many restrictions and prohibitions on women,” the authors wrote.
Savoy said that Mary Magdalene, “the most prominent female figure in the gospels,” had been treated harshly in many common interpretations of the texts.
“She stood by Jesus’ side, including as he died on the cross, when all the male disciples were afraid. She was the first to go to his grave and find out about his resurrection,” he said. she pointed out.
“She is a fundamental character, but she is portrayed as a prostitute, … and even as Jesus’ lover in recent fiction.”
Scientists also go to great lengths to place the texts in their historical context.
“We fight against a literal reading of the texts”, declared Parmentier, citing for example the letters sent by Saint Paul to the emerging Christian communities.
Reading passages from those letters, which could easily be interpreted as radically anti-feminist, as instructions on how women should be treated today is nonsense, she said.
“It’s like taking a letter that someone sends giving advice that is valid for eternity.”
The theologians’ texts also approach the Bible through different themes, such as the body, seduction, motherhood and subordination.
The authors say they see their work as a useful tool in the age of #MeToo.
“Each chapter addresses existential questions for women, questions they still ask themselves today,” said Parmentier.
“While some say you have to throw out the Bible to be a feminist, we believe the opposite.”