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Mishap in the library and Tivka Frymer-Kensky

October 8, 2012

I was sneaking off to the stacks for a pleasant evening on my own, in a safe place or so I thought. The underground parking is always a concern but the stacks seemed safe enough. I had to pick up Countertraditions in the Bible by Ilana Pardes, recommended to me by Robert Daum.

I scanned the relevant shelf and decided to enjoy picking out books at random. The first book that I flicked back off the shelf was Deep Exegesis by Peter Leithart. I was shocked. Could someone who believes in the submission of women, and who paints the woman who is not submissive in the home as rebellious, actually be found in a secular university library. Here is an example of his marriage “exhortation” to young women.

To the unmarried women: Learn submission in your home. If you resist your parents’ authority, your rebellion will overflow into your marriage. If you develop habits of subterfuge and deception to avoid obeying your parents, those habits will continue into marriage, and make your marriage very unhappy.

(These kinds of accusations make my stomach churn.) I asked myself if it was the same Peter Leithart, but apparently it was. I read as far as his criticism of Richard Longenecker, one of my favourite seminary profs, and put the book back on the shelf.

The next book I picked up was in German and the first word I read in that book was weiblich, wifely. (I know you will say that it really means “female,” but it sounds like “wifely.”) So I put that book back.

Then I picked up On Freedom, Love and Power by Jacques Ellul, compiled, edited and translated by Willem Vanderberg. And the first line I read in that book was as follows,

St. Jerome did a rather poor job of translating the Hebrew Bible into Greek.

I did a facepalm then flipped to another section,

At the same time, Adam is unique (or specific to him) and different from the Hebrew isch, which means humanity, analogous to the German mann or l’homme in French.

I  have no idea whether to blame this sentence on Ellul or Vanderberg. But it gets worse. About men and women and difference he writes about GEN. 3:16-18,

Here we encounter a difference between man and woman: the woman is the one who gives birth, and the man has the awareness of death.

Okay, I would be scratching my head, but then I read about his views on the hermeneutical crisis,

I do not have a bad head for these things and succeeded in mastering the issues, yet I really thought I was losing it. Hence, When this obscure material is thrown at clergy who may not be very strong intellectually, they will not be able to master it, and it will drive them crazy. These kinds of issues are best left to a dozen or so intellectuals who know this stuff well.

Oh, I am not intellectually capable of understanding his hermeneutics. I get it. All I can say is that this is a book of edited lectures, and in my view, not very well edited.We may all say odd things off the cuff but I am having trouble with this book. Back it goes!

Fortunately, my time in the library was not a dead loss. I did find Reading the Women of the Bible by Tivka Frymer-Kensky. It is by far the most scholarly book on women in the Bible that I have read so far. It contains an enormous amount of new material and should be the standard by which we judge books on women in the Bible – in my view. She saved the day for me. More about this book soon.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Katherine permalink
    October 8, 2012 11:58 pm

    St. Jerome did a rather poor job of translating the Hebrew Bible into Greek

    Ha! I suppose translating the Hebrew Bible into Latin does rather make it a not-so-good version of Greek.

    Here we encounter a difference between man and woman: the woman is the one who gives birth, and the man has the awareness of death.

    Bwuuuuuuh?!? I don’t even–I can’t wrap my head around the cavernous void of empathy apparent in such a clueless statement.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    October 9, 2012 11:18 pm

    I wasn’t entirely fair to Ellul, so here it the passage,

    “First, there is the awareness of dying; and humanity will be haunted by this vision of death. here we encounter a difference between man and woman: the woman is the one who gives birth, and the man has the awareness of death. For those who argue that the differences are purely cultural (which I accept in a great many instances), I would point out that nevertheless there are some differences. I am, of course, not saying that the woman does not have an awareness of death, but that in the traits of the female person it is less dominant than in the male person. I believe this is one of the fundamental differences between men and women, but I certainly don’t want to make a big deal of it.” page 83

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