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Gender and religion

March 23, 2016

The Pew Research Center yesterday released a new report on gender and religious participation.   It found that in many countries in the world, and especially among Christians, there is a wide gender gap.  Section 6 of the report is entitled:  “In the U.S., religious commitment is high and the gender gap is wide.”

I’m afraid I may not have time to fully digest the report until next week, but I wanted to bring it to the attention of BLT readers.

(If the full report is too long to read in full, please at least consider reading the summary which is on the first web page here.)

An interesting article about two translations

March 22, 2016

If you don’t mind (quite) salty language, you may enjoy William Brennan’s book review in the New Yorker:  “The Irish Novel That’s So Good People Were Scared to Translate It” about not one but two translations of Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s infamous Cré na Cille — published in quick succession by Yale University Press:  Graveyard Clay: Cré na Cille and The Dirty Dust: Cré na Cille.

I wish I could say more about the article, but I haven’t read the translations (they are both on order), I do not read any Gaelic (Irish or Scottish), and the quotes are too arguably too racy for this blog.  But based on Brennan’s review, this looks to be quite an interesting study in translation.



Wisdom Commentary (Catholic) from Liturgical Press

March 3, 2016

Liturgical Press, a prestigious Catholic publisher, has announced a new scholarly commentary series on the Catholic Bible:  The Wisdom Commentary.  According to the publisher, the series is …

A Significant Milestone in the History of Feminism and the Study of Scripture. The Wisdom Commentary series is the first scholarly collaboration to offer detailed feminist interpretation of every book of the Bible. The fifty-eight volume collection makes the best of current feminist biblical scholarship available in an accessible format to aid preachers and teachers in their advancement toward God’s vision of dignity, equality, and justice for all.

They have also produced a brief YouTube video for the series:


Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler’s Writings

January 25, 2016

I was going to make a joke about how, in view of Mein Kampf being republished in Germany, Donald Trump will now be able to get his lines from the original, rather than just a translation.  But it turns out it is maybe not actually a joke at all.   From Vanity Fair:

Last April, perhaps in a surge of Czech nationalism, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed. Kennedy now guards a copy of My New Order in a closet at his office, as if it were a grenade. Hitler’s speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist.

“Did your cousin John give you the Hitler speeches?” I asked Trump.

Trump hesitated. “Who told you that?”

“I don’t remember,” I said.

“Actually, it was my friend Marty Davis from Paramount who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf, and he’s a Jew.” (“I did give him a book about Hitler,” Marty Davis said. “But it was My New Order, Hitler’s speeches, not Mein Kampf. I thought he would find it interesting. I am his friend, but I’m not Jewish.”)

Later, Trump returned to this subject. “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them.”

Whose God of Abraham? Mine, Yours, Theirs?

January 10, 2016

In the post here of January 8, 2016 I was asking whose Wheaton College is it? (And who is Wheaton College?)

In this post the question is different. What do people of the book state?

Dr. Hawkins had already shared the statement written on whose God this is. The statement included this:

I understand that Islam (and Judaism) denies the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and leaves no room for the Cross and the Resurrection, but my statement is not a statement on soteriology or trinitarian theology, but one ofembodied piety. When I say that “we worship the same God,” I am saying what Stackhouse points out, namely that “when pious Muslims pray, they are addressing the One True God, and that God is, simply, God.”

Dr. Stephen Prothero wrote an article published by the Wall Street Journal responding. It ended this way:

Ms. Hawkins may have hoped to respond creatively to hateful rhetoric against Muslims, which is admirable….. But pretend pluralism, feigning that all or most religious traditions hinge on the same truth, is no solution for the squabble at Wheaton or anywhere else.

Why Ms to mark her sex I asked on facebook? Dr. Prothero first said that this is the WSJ style then said he uses Dr and so assumes it was an editorial change (after I pointed out four cases recently where the WSJ used Dr with other associate professors).

Dr. Prothero did not respond to my other objection that Dr. Hawkins was not conflating “all or most religions.”

Here is an answer to the question I’m asking from one of the books of Dr. Stephen Prothero:


What I feel is important is this. Islam consists of humans with lots of inconsistent theologies, as does Christianity, as does Judaism, as does Wheaton College and its students of the Quran, the New Testament, and the Hebrew Bible.


Are “Wheaton College” and “Three Humans” the Same Person?

January 8, 2016

The language of separation, of subtle othering, is in the paragraphs below pertaining to “Wheaton College” and these three:




Could there be more to this picture than just parsing of theological language? And why is Dr. Hawkins marked, separated out, by her sex in this Wall Street Journal article?

The freedom to wear a head scarf as a gesture of care and compassion for individuals in Muslim or other religious communities that may face discrimination or persecution is afforded to Dr. Hawkins as a faculty member of Wheaton College. Yet her recently expressed views, including that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, appear to be in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith.

Wheaton College placed Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins on paid administrative leave on December 15 in order to give more time to explore significant questions regarding the theological implications of her recent public statements, including but not limited to those indicating the relationship of Christianity to Islam. The discussion and assessment to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member is already underway, within an unprescribed timeframe to allow flexibility of the process.

Wheaton College can confirm reports that on January 4, 2016, per College policies and procedures, Provost Stanton Jones delivered to President Philip Ryken and to Dr. Larycia Hawkins a Notice of Recommendation to Initiate Termination-for-Cause Proceedings regarding Dr. Hawkins.

On January 6, 2016, Dr. Larycia Hawkins held a press conference to discuss the Notice of Recommendation to Initiate Termination Proceedings sent on January 4.

While Wheaton College disagrees with some of the facts presented in the press conference, the College admires Dr. Hawkins’ commitment to caring for our Muslim neighbors.

As previously stated, at issue are the theological implications of Dr. Hawkins’ statements and requested explanation. The College will continue the internal review process set in place for tenured professors.

Memories of Mary: Mary Rakow’s new novel and snippets

December 21, 2015

After The Memory Room, Mary Rakow has written another profound novel. Its title is This Is Why I Came, and this is not Sunday School recollections of Bible stories.

Here are three places where the novelist makes room for Mary, the Mother of Jesus, snippets:





Readers making the worthwhile purchase of this book might want to preview what they’re getting into:


Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy

December 11, 2015

(A close read of a traditional Catholic prayer, cross posted from Gaudete Theology)

In honor of this past tuesday’s feast of the Immaculate Conception, which opens the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I thought I would do a close read of this traditional Catholic prayer, also known as the Salve Regina.

If you only know the version in the hymnal, or its delightfully joyful rendition from Sister Act, then this will be new to you. The prayer is not a triumphal hymn of praise; it is, instead, a lament. And, I argue, a lament that deliberately counterposes Mary with Eve.

Here is the entire prayer as I learned it in childhood; it is this version I’ll be reading, rather than the original Latin.

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy,
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we lift up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy towards us,
and after this, our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, o loving, o sweet Virgin Mary:
Pray for us, o holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Now, my Protestant friends may already find their teeth set on edge at line 2, and I confess I too would be more comfortable addressing Jesus as Life, Sweetness, and Hope than Mary. I wondered, in fact, if this line should actually be interpreted as a continuation of the previous phrase, thus addressing Mary as “Mother of (Mercy, Life, Sweetness, and Hope).” I went so far as to check the original Latin, but it’s clear from the grammar that these images are indeed being used of Mary. Perhaps for your own comfort you may make that adaptation as we proceed; but we will come back to this line later.

So, a quick overview: Mary’s in heaven, we’re on earth, woe is us, because we all got kicked out of the Garden of Eden and that’s why life is so miserable. We ask Mary to mercifully intercede for us so we can get to heaven, too.

A quick sidebar for non-Catholic readers: our tradition has it that at the end of her life Mary was translated (“assumed”) bodily into heaven (the feast of the Assumption you may have heard of), because God would not suffer the body that bore and nursed him to decay. As the mother of God, she is honored more highly than any other creature, even the angels, and is thus called the queen of heaven or queen of angels. (Jesus of course is not a creature, being fully divine as well as fully human, “born of the Father before all ages . . . consubstantial with the Father” per the Christology declared at the Council of Nicaea.) Thus Mary is as bodily in heaven as we are bodily on earth, and the two realms in this text are solidly counterposed.

To thee do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve

Why do we cry to Mary? Read more…

White Male Bibliobloggers and “rape threats as a matter of course”

October 21, 2015

Last month, the most recent biblioblogger carnival went up (by William Brown) and again with his links only to blog posts of males only.

(Pardon my redundancy, then, in using the adjectival phrase “white male” with the noun “bibliobloggers” in the title of my post. But where does one go to find blogging on the Bible by anybody else?)

Last week, the most recent announcement for the SBL and AAR blogger dinner and drinks gathering of bibliobloggers went up (by James F. McGrath posted on his biblioblog and then again on a “public group” site) on facebook.

“It’s just very…male, James McGrath. Very male looking,” comments Leigh Ann Hildebrand. And she goes on to self identify, to mark herself, as one not in this picture typically:

“I’m just making sure that you know. As a woman, based on this picture I would think, ‘This is not a gathering for me. I would feel uncomfortable attending.'”

This prompts some conversation, including a longer statement by Robert Cargill (who has the privilege of not self identifying and feels no need to explain that he’s a man):

It’s a valid point. What is odd about the “very male” criticism of blogging, however, is that there is no prohibition, disincentive, or touchscreen glass ceiling prohibiting *anyone* from blogging. Literally anyone can blog. And the blogging group (at least those of us involved in SBL’s blogging initiative) have sought out ways to increase women’s participation in blogging. But the fact that women do not blog as much as men according to any number of surveys does not appear to be the result of any institutional pressure. In fact, I’m encouraged at the number of women who participate in THIS forum (the Hotel Lobby), and see it as an example of positive gender representation within the academy. But I cannot for the life of me, however, understand why women don’t appear to be blogging as much as men, without venturing into speculative theories about different habits of women vs. men scholars, and I know better than to go there.

That said, Leigh Ann, you are correct about the symbolism of that image.


What prompts me, a man, blogging here at BLT, to write this morning is something that I read last evening that Leigh Ann Hildebrand also has written:

“I blog.”

She writes that to these men on facebook, and so her blog has been, because she’s a woman not a male, snubbed again by the monthly carnival. She has added this too:

“Carrie Schroeder raises a really important point. There are *strong* disincentives for women to blog these days. The harassment issue is real.”

She has added something else (marked in parentheses):

“(That is, I’m making a guess that male bibliobloggers do not get rape threats as a matter of course.)”

And Janet Elizabeth Spittler has this additional observation:

“Internet rape threats are a serious disincentive.”

Some years ago when some of us again and again and again were complaining about the censoring of women bloggers from the monthly rankings of biblioblogs and from the monthly carnivals of links, white male biblioblogger Jim West complained back to me directly:

“jk- why dont you host one instead of complaining?”

Well, we did.

But I want you to know that my BLT co-bloggers and I had lots of private conversations about whether or not to write a carnival. Of our team then, the women let the men know of threats they regularly received. And would continue to receive as a matter of course.

A new Anne Carson poem

September 17, 2015

minor re/visions of 9/11

September 11, 2015

I remember the day, 9/11/2001, like it was yesterday.

I was a student in New York City. I’d been living there for a while at that time—I was still adjusting to being in the big city. I was a Native kid,…

On this particular morning—September 11—I remember hitting “Snooze” in the morning time and going back to sleep. When I passed back out, I remember dreaming about a plane, a small crop-duster in my dream, hitting a small building and falling to the ground….

It was undoubtedly a tragedy. But September 11th wasn’t a surprise, at least not for Native people and many people of color. No, Native people were already well aware of ….

[the need for] rectification for the Marias Massacre, for the Sand Creek Massacre, for Wounded Knee, for North Tulsa/Black Wall Street, the Mankato Mass Hanging, the Red Summer of 1919, Joe Coe, Emmett Till, Internment Camps of Japanese, Chinese Exclusion Act, Slavery, Jim Crow, Genocide, Forced Tubal Ligation of Native Women, Tuskegee Experiments, etc., etc., etc….
Gyasi Ross, “The Day White Innocence Died: An Indigenous Take on #September11

“Keep your head low.” My mother said those words to me sometime after Sept. 11, 2001. It left me baffled and confused at the age of 10. What did my being Muslim have to do with an attack that turned buildings into ash and rubble more than 700 miles away?

I accidentally smashed my thumb in my mother’s Corolla door on the first anniversary of 9/11. She insisted I still go to school even though my thumb had already begun to turn the hues of a Turbo Rocket Popsicle. I was dressed for the occasion, I thought. Red ribbons complacently swayed with my pigtails, red shirt and blue jeans making my white belt pop….
Mahjabeen Syed, “The pain of growing up Muslim in post-9/11 America

A peculiar silence had consumed the usual commotion of my elementary classroom when my teacher Ms. Rubin rushed into the room in the early hours of September 11th, 2001. Her face had lost its familiar tones of vibrance, and her hands were clapped to her mouth.

“The Twin Towers have been hit,” she chokingly announced.

The events of 9/11 profoundly impacted my childhood. I recited the pledge of allegiance every morning, yet I was singled out for my brown skin. Our neighbors shunned my family and I was frisked without fail upon every visit to the airport. I feared for my family — not from terrorism, but from the patriotic zeal that plagues this country.
Chiraayu Gosrani, “The real post-9/11 United States

Requiem for a Never-Ending Conversation: Remembering Mark

August 29, 2015

Two weeks ago, I watched as one of my best friends died.

Longtime readers of my blog, Gaudete Theology, knew him as commenter Mark S. He commented here once, too.

Mark was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in early 2013.

But our conversation had begun years before that, not long after my manager had hired him. He was passing by my office when he heard me laughing while delightedly telling my officemate that the American Academy of Religion was devoting an entire session at their upcoming conference to discuss whether or not Pastafarianism — the cultus of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — qualified as an actual religion. He backtracked a couple of steps, stood at the doorway listening till I wound down, and then said, “Wait… what? You obviously take your religion pretty seriously – you have a flyer for a religion lecture on your bulletin board – but you’re laughing about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”

In retrospect I can hear him thinking, “Don’t you know the FSM was made up by a bunch of atheists who are mocking you? You’re supposed to be offended, not amused. What kind of a Christian *are* you?”

So I burbled on a bit about how fabulous I thought it was that religious studies people could use the FSM as a test particle to probe the definition of “religion.” He said, “That’s interesting, I’d like to hear more about that – maybe we can have lunch sometime and talk about it.” And so our conversation began.

Please click through to read the rest of the post and the comments over on my blog.

When I was invited to become a co-blogger here at BLT, Mark was the first person I told. I remember displaying the site on my office computer and showing it to him, saying “Look! Look at this site! I can’t believe these people actually want me to join them!” I was flabbergasted and unsure of myself. He always had more faith confidence in my work than I did myself; this was not the only time that he encouraged me to pursue a wider audience or broader platform for my work.

I hope to gradually resume blogging more actively over the next few months.

trigger warning – Meta Sodomite Challenge

June 30, 2015
TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

“And they inserted their Logic, stuck it in him.”
What the fuck is this shit?
Stewart James Felker

Men don’t use the word “rape” when they testify. They talk about being sodomized, or about iron rods being inserted into them. In so doing, they make rape a women’s issue. By denying their own sexual subjugation to male brutality, they form a brotherhood with rapists that conspires against their own wives, mothers, and daughters, say some of those who testify.

There is a lot of ambiguity surrounding sexual torture, says Sheila Meintjes. It is not difficult to understand why. “There is a hypothesis that sexual torture of men is to induce sexual passivity and to abolish political power and potency, while the torture of women is the activation of sexuality. There is a lot of anger about women — because women do not have the authority, but often they have a lot of power.”
Antjie Krog

We have much to learn from Rwandans, who have been brave enough to confront and convict rape as a universal crime. Look outside my office window at that dormitory. We don’t know how to face, to confront, the rape that goes in these buildings on this Texas Christian University (TCU) campus.
an upper level administrator having returned from the TCU-sponsored screening of the documentary The Uncondemned in Kigali

A mark! O, mark but that mark! A mark, says my lady!
Let the mark have a prick in’t, to mete at, if it may be.

She’s too hard for you at pricks, sir: challenge her to bowl.

I will something affect the letter, for it argues facility.
The preyful princess pierced and prick’d a pretty pleasing pricket;
Some say a sore; but not a sore, till now made sore with shooting.
The dogs did yell: put L to sore, then sorel jumps from thicket;
Or pricket sore, or else sorel; the people fall a-hooting.
If sore be sore, then L to sore makes fifty soresone sorel.
Of one sore I an hundred make by adding but one more L.
William Shakespeare

The last Old Testament “Clobber Text” I will talk about is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 and 19. Some interpret this story to say that the sin of Sodom is homosexuality and believe that God destroyed the city of Sodom because it was “overrun with homosexuals.” To summarize the story, a host invites traveling men into his house. Later, an angry mob of townspeople surround the house and demand that the host turn his guests over to them, clearly stating that foreigners are not welcome and implying that they may be raped or killed. The host attempts to soothe the anger of the threatening gangs by offering women of his household for the mob to abuse instead of his male guests. (Rogers 67). Rogers says that “in that culture, the most humiliating experience for a man was to be treated like a woman, and raping a man was the most violent such treatment.” So, the host felt it was more important to protect the integrity of the male visitors in his house than to protect his own women.
Emily Douglas

In both Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter Butler deals extensively with Irigaray’s writings and criticises her, especially in her first book, sometimes vehemently (Butler 1990: 18). Nevertheless, in her second book she takes a conceptual turn that is basically similar to Irigaray’s, even if the contact-points for identification she offers are different. As already mentioned, Irigaray argues that a phallogocentrical order induces an outside that is constitutive and stands for the contingent par excellence, for which she coins the metaphor “the sex that is not one”. This appears in Bodies that Matter in a mirrored way when Butler points out that the constitution of a subject is always and constitutively accompanied by exclusion. Butler then passes over this exclusion, which is constitutively part of the formation of any identity, referring on the one hand to the notions of “repudiation” and “abjection” borrowed implicitly from Lacan (Butler 1993: 3 and 111) that designate a process in which the subject abandons unliveable potentialities (see also Distelhorst 2007: 118f.). But on the other hand she superposes this exclusion with the notions with which Michel Foucault investigates the ways in which norms define who and what counts as reality and as a viable subject, and who or what is “fundamentally unintelligible” (Butler 2004: 28 and 30). This brings Butler to the conception that the heterosexual hegemony produces homo-, trans- or intersexuals as “unthinkable, abject, unliveable bodies” (Butler, 1993: xi and 3). Butler criticises Irigaray for, as she sees it, equating the outside of phallogentric order with “the female”.[6] Nevertheless, her writing also mirrors that of Irigaray in Bodies that Matter when Butler relates this outside of phallogentric order to the lesbian and ultimately the homosexual (Butler 1993: 51). In this way, however, as Butler contends, a competition in the sphere of the excluded and abjected emerges between the “feminine” and the “homosexual”, one that is tantamount to a competition between (heterosexual) “women” and “gays/lesbians”. This becomes evident when Butler states “that the feminine monopolizes the sphere of the excluded” (Butler 1993: 48), an assumption she sets out to criticise.[7] Such a bringing-into-competition also becomes evident when Butler critically discusses whether “gender” can be seen as a “code for homosexuality” (Butler 2004: 181) but then herself poses the question of whether “difference” could not be read as a “code for heterosexual normativity” (Butler 2004: 202).
Anna Schober

Above all we must keep in mind that narrative is a form of representation. Abraham in Genesis is not a real person any more than the painting of an apple is real fruit.
Adele Berlin

We find the Bible of the Jews in Greek, and even where it’s in Hebrew and in Hebrew Aramaic, it’s mostly in Greek. And we may even want that language not to be rhetorical. But where the Jewish bible is in Greek, it comes to us already translated. Translation is rhetorical, whether we’d like it to be something a-rhetorical or not-too rhetorical if possible.
J. K. Gayle

Aristotle consistently sought to contrast his philosophical system [of logic] with that of his predecessors even if the contrast required distortion of his predecessors’ doctrines…. The conceptual term for the Sophists was usually logos and sometimes legein [which means ‘to speak’] — terms broader in meaning than any ancient conception.
Edward Schiappa

Pardon me for having so many epigraphs and the necessary trigger warning. I’m trying to set the stage for my limited blog engagement with a particular translation challenge.

Here’s further context.

Last Friday the Supreme Court of the United States granted marriage equality. That same weekend blogger Deane Galbraith issued “The Sodomite Challenge: How to Translate Genesis 19:5” to a few of us bloggers. Earlier that week I’d been to a Shakespeare play on the Texas Christian University campus with my daughter who’d just graduated from college and is going this week to South Africa to be a teacher, reading in preparation, Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa and finding herself in tears talking with my wife and me about it. These are coincidences of my own life. My limited blog engagement with Deane’s particular translation challenge is highly subjective. There are ambiguities to take note of.

Yesterday I finally brought myself not to translate the Hebrew of the MT into English, as is Deane’s challenge. Rather I brought myself to confront the Hellene translation of that Hebrew done in spite of the Aristotelian phallogocentricism that Alexander the Great learned from Aristotle. I rather agree with Sylvie Honigman, who says the translators of the Hebrew scriptures in Alexandria did not work out of the Alexandrian paradigm but instead out of a Homeric paradigm. I tend to find compelling the Talmud’s claim, according to Naomi Seidman, that the Septuagint is a trickster text, a rendering of the Hebrew that confronts the politics of the Greeks in the context of Alexandria, of Egypt.

I do think Deane is most correct about the Hebrew representations:

So the story of Sodom in Genesis 19 evokes three types of sexual intercourse, none of which actually occur, but which are only spoken about [in the MT’s Hebrew].

  • First, the crowd infer that Lot had been having sex intercourse with the two men/angels by night (Gen 19:5a);
  • Second, the crowd of men demand sexual intercourse between them and the two men/angels, and (Gen 19:5b);
  • Three, Lot offers his two daughters for sexual intercourse with the crowd of men (Gen 19:8).

But no actual sexual intercourse takes place until, in a surprising twist, Lot has sex with his two daughters (Gen 19:30-38).

With the exception of the imagined sexual intercourse between Lot and the two men/angels, each of the other three descriptions of sexual intercourse (described or actual) involves rape: the rape of the two men/angels by the crowd of men from Sodom; the rape of Lot’s two daughters by the crowd of men from Sodom; the rape of Lot by his two daughters.

The Hellene, or Greek, representations of this sort of Hebrew representations do something else. They engage readers in a male contest over language, over Logos in the Greek Empire. Such is violent. Such violence silences women. Such silences men who are called kinaidoi (“catamites”). Logic sounds more natural, less botched, according to Aristotle, who taught Alexander, to greatly colonize the world, which is now, in the West largely still our world.

The Jews translating their own Scripture in Alexandria Egypt had Sarai say to Abram of the Egyptian woman:

εἶπεν δὲ Σαρα πρὸς Αβραμ
ἰδοὺ συνέκλεισέν με κύριος τοῦ μὴ τίκτειν
εἴσελθε οὖν πρὸς τὴν παιδίσκην μου
ἵνα τεκνοποιήσῃς ἐξ αὐτῆς
ὑπήκουσεν δὲ Αβραμ τῆς φωνῆς Σαρας

Readers notice the preposition προς. In the gospel of John this gets translated as “with” as in “with God”; and this provokes Anne Carson to ask, “What kind of withness?”

It’s more than with. More intimate than that. More violent perhaps. The non-consensual “entering into” by the man “with” her. Or did she have a choice, this slave, this woman, of Egypt?

Earlier for Genesis the translators have written, using Greek:

καὶ ἐξεκαλοῦντο τὸν Λωτ
καὶ ἔλεγον πρὸς αὐτόν

ποῦ εἰσιν
οἱ ἄνδρες οἱ εἰσελθόντες πρὸς σὲ τὴν νύκτα
ἐξάγαγε αὐτοὺς πρὸς ἡμᾶς
ἵνα συγγενώμεθα αὐτοῖς

We see the same words, εἰσελθόντες, “enter into,” and multiply πρὸς. What sort of intimate withness is this?

We see other words with the multiple πρὸς: namely ἐξάγαγε and ἔλεγον. And there’s συγγενώμεθα. These words recall Plutarch’s later critique of the much earlier Salon, whom Aristotle valorized (from here, with Bernadotte Perrin’s English translation from here):

ὅλως δὲ πλείστην ἔχειν ἀτοπίαν οἱ περὶ τῶν γυναικῶν νόμοι τῷ Σόλωνι δοκοῦσι. μοιχὸν μὲν γὰρ ἀνελεῖν τῷ λαβόντι δέδωκεν: ἐὰν δ᾽ ἁρπάσῃ τις ἐλευθέραν γυναῖκα καὶ βιάσηται, ζημίαν ἑκατὸν δραχμὰς ἔταξε: κἂν προαγωγεύῃ, δραχμὰς εἴκοσι, πλὴν ὅσαι πεφασμένως πωλοῦνται, λέγων δὴ τὰς ἑταίρας. αὗται γὰρ ἐμφανῶς φοιτῶσι πρὸς τοὺς διδόντας. [2] ἔτι δ᾽ οὔτε θυγατέρας πωλεῖν οὔτ᾽ ἀδελφὰς δίδωσι, πλὴν ἂν μὴ λάβῃ παρθένον ἀνδρὶ συγγεγενημένην. τὸ δ᾽ αὐτὸ πρᾶγμα ποτὲ μὲν πικρῶς καὶ ἀπαραιτήτως κολάζειν, ποτὲ δ᾽ εὐκόλως καὶ παίζοντα, πρόστιμον ζημίαν τὴν τυχοῦσαν ὁρίζοντα, ἄλογόν ἐστι: πλὴν εἰ μὴ σπανίζοντος τότε τοῦ νομίσματος ἐν τῇ πόλει μεγάλας ἐποίει τὰς ἀργυρικὰς ζημίας τὸ δυσπόριστον.

But in general Solon’s laws concerning women seem very absurd. For instance, he permitted an adulterer caught in the act to be killed; but if a man committed rape upon a free woman, he was merely to be fined a hundred drachmas; and if he gained his end by persuasion, twenty drachmas, unless it were with one of those who sell themselves openly, meaning of course the courtesans. For these go openly to those who offer them their price. [2] Still further, no man is allowed to sell a daughter or a sister, unless he find that she is no longer a virgin. But to punish the same offence now severely and inexorably, and now mildly and pleasantly, making the penalty a slight fine, is unreasonable; unless money was scarce in the city at that time, and the difficulty of procuring it made these monetary punishments heavy.

What we see is the violence, the rape, the struggle for men to account for rape especially when raped.

Even the line καὶ ἔλεγον πρὸς αὐτόν is a struggle. My translation of this translation is this line,“And they inserted their Logic, stuck it in him.” Somehow, ironically, SF at Deane’s blog violently reacts. The need to confront this sort of thing in our day and time is there. We are stuck with this sort of language.

Suzanne McCarthy: No more crankypants!

June 24, 2015

When Theophrastus announced that Suzanne McCarthy was joining him, Craig Smith, and me to start blogging here, one of her blogs had been, for some months, earlier in that same year, one of the “Top 50” most-visited biblioblogs and had been voted by bibliobloggers, one month, as being in the “Top 10” blogs on the Bible and then, in a later month, had been voted #1.

Suzanne, the first time this Top-10 thing happened, said:

I decided some time ago to completely ignore the list of top 50 biblioblogs. I was just being a pain about it, and I didn’t want to foist my irritation on others ad infinitum. So imagine my astonishment on finding out that somebody, or a collection of somebody’s, has voted this blog among the top ten biblioblogs. Shoot, now I am going to have to improve my manners and act like one of the gang. No more crankypants!

In a timely fashion, longtime blogfriend, Dan Brennan has emailed me about this post on cross gender friendship. What a bouquet of roses it is tonight.

The second time the Top-10 thing happened (with the very Top-1 blog vote), Suzanne posted this way:

The Top 10 Biblioblogs reports that I have been voted number 1! (No artwork, though.) I don’t know how to interpret this, since I have no idea how many people vote. But let me say that I sincerely appreciate the response.

I take this two ways. First, I personally should keep on blogging. In spite of my single issue blogging, some people still want to read it. Second, I choose to read into the results that the biblioblogosphere wants to affirm the participation of women. I don’t think I am far off there.

There are still few women biblioblogging, and there certainly is a lack of women with an academic background blogging in biblical studies.

She went on in the same post to reiterate something of importance to her about blogging in general and about blogging on the Bible in particular:

I truly feel that there is a great deal of friendship and empathy expressed for women in the biblioblogosphere…. So, lots of friendly interaction and I appreciate that. But the question remains, why would anyone blog about my spiritual condition? Women, effeminates, and atheists routinely draw fire in some very unpleasant ways. There are nasty things said about our status and right to exist and function alongside the “real men” all the time. Although only a very small proportion of bibliobloggers are mean, this has some dampening effect. Most of the negative comments are said by those who are not actually bibliobloggers, but these more outspoken authors are often affirmed by bibliobloggers….

Her full post is here.

I mention this because Suzanne would often acknowledge when others positively influenced her, even through blogging. For example, a couple of years before BLT, she posted this post that started this way:

She is there, in particular, making a point to say how in specific ways other bloggers, in this case Theophrastus and me, have provided her with stuff that she considers great. And yet, whenever some of us were discussing stuff on our blogs in not-so-great ways, Sue would express hope that we might change those ways of ours, just a bit at least; and she’d get us thinking about other, related great stuff. Here’s another example:


Her “two” she refers to in this comment are Theophrastus and me again (he writing in vigorous defense of Aristotle’s teachings and I in disdain of Aristotle’s misogyny); see how Suzanne gets us moving on, hoping for friendliness and for friendship in blogging, having us read something she’d already read as it is more clearly where we might share learning and come to some agreement.

But Suzanne McCarthy was not necessarily ever all about agreement. In fact, she enjoyed difference of opinion, intelligent disagreement, and smart debate. She urged us in starting BLT to promote this.

“That’s the thing,” she wrote to the two of us on this idea of co-blogging inclusively on various subjects related to the Bible, literature, and translation. “There is stimulation to be had from an active interchange, even with lots of disagreement, but no bullying.”

And so Suzanne McCarthy modeled this sort of blogging, and biblioblogging, for all of us. She never stopped blogging and never stopped blogging this way, and always with humour. To the end of her life, she was troubled by the ignorant and the sexists and the bullies, who offer little and damage much and many. Her crankypants crack is in their honour, I must say. Thankfully, she left us all with a few wonderful published articles (like this one) and a possible book on the way and a set of wonderful blog posts and trans-formative conversations with many. Below are her top-10-most-read BLT posts in order from first-written to most-recently posted. You might just find again some great stuff there.

Ann Nyland on publishing the GLTB Study Bible
SEPTEMBER 13, 2011

Hugo and the train stations of Paris
FEBRUARY 26, 2012

The Opramoas Inscription
JUNE 22, 2012

Women, IQ and complementarianism
JULY 18, 2012

Pagninus Latin Bible online
NOVEMBER 17, 2012

The Dovekeepers and Ancient Jewish Magic
JANUARY 27, 2013

Tim Keller, Allender and Longman need a refresher course in biology.
JANUARY 16, 2014

Noah: A rabbi’s review
MARCH 29, 2014

Ishi not Baali
APRIL 3, 2014

Susannah Heschel on “Selma”
JANUARY 18, 2015

In Tribute: Suzanne McCarthy, 1955-2015

June 20, 2015
In early 2008 I encountered Christian egalitarianism for the first time and embraced it with excitement and relief.  Finally, I could let go of my cognitive dissonance! I could believe in a God who hadn’t arbitrarily consigned me to subordinate status; I could trust that I hadn’t been created for subordination to a man while still somehow being his equal.

Naively I thought that any Christian who learned of this liberating new way of looking at Scripture would feel the same way I did.  Surely it would be a relief to them, too, to stop fighting against their better instincts the way I had had to fight mine.  Surely they would be happy to understand that God’s ways were higher than the church’s ways.  Surely they would be happy to see women set free.

And then, jarringly, upsettingly, I began to come across the counter-arguments.  The ones that said egalitarian Christians were in rebellion against God; that they were twisting the Scriptures because they didn’t want to fulfill their God-given gender roles; that in their heart of hearts they loved the world and the world’s culture too much to stand against it for Christ.  The Bible was plain and clear, they said.  How could I go against it?

Once I would have been willing to believe them, but the cage door was open and swinging, and I had found my way outside.  How could I go back in?  Dismayed, doubting myself, I looked for scholarly support for what I hoped, what I had to believe was somehow true, no matter what the accusations against it.  Men of God with credentials and letters after their names– men like John Piper and Wayne Grudem– were insisting that egalitarian scholarship regarding Greek words like “kephale” (translated “head” as in “the husband is the head of the wife”) was mistaken and wrong-headed. I had no training in ancient languages.  Who should I believe?

It was then that I came across her blog– or maybe I was directed there; I don’t remember.

Suzanne McCarthy. Suzanne’s Bookshelf.

Her bio simply said she was a woman living in Vancouver, Canada, but that she also blogged at Abecedaria, a scholarly site about language and letter systems.  As I used the blog search engine, it seemed that any topic on the complementarian/egalitarian debate that I typed in, she had addressed. As I read her words, I found myself encountering a singularly wise, compassionate, articulate scholar, who seemed to feel the same way I did about being consigned to female subordination.

For anything that Grudem or Piper said, Suzanne McCarthy had a strong answer, using facts and evidence from ancient language sources, showing how the words Paul and Peter used had been used by their historical and literary contempories.  For instance, here is an excerpt from one of her articles about how the word “kephale” (“head”) was used by Philo of Alexandria:

The “head” is the virtuous person. I see no indication that this person has ruling authority. In another book, Philo gives an example of this kind of person, Philadelphus,

        “Ptolemy, surnamed Philadelphus, was the third in succession after Alexander, the monarch who subdued Egypt; and he was, in all virtues which can be displayed in government, the most excellent sovereign, not only of all those of his time, but of all that ever lived; so that even now, after the lapse of so many generations, his fame is still celebrated, as having left many instances and monuments of his magnanimity in the cities and districts of his kingdom, so that even now it is come to be a sort of proverbial expression to call excessive magnificence, and zeal, for honour and splendour in preparation, Philadelphian, from his name; (30) and, in a word, the whole family of the Ptolemies was exceedingly eminent and conspicuous above all other royal families, and among the Ptolemies, Philadelphus was the most illustrious; for all the rest put together scarcely did as many glorious and praiseworthy actions as this one king did by himself, being, as it were, the leader of the herd, and in a manner the head of all the kings.” On Moses II:29

Here “head” means “most illustrious” and simply cannot mean “authority over” since Philadelphus is head of the kings in his family who lived before him and followed him. He simply never had authority over the other kings in chronological succession with him. Was Philadelphus really the “ruling authority” over his own father? 

. . . Much still needs to be done to release men and women from a ruler – subject relationship, and allow them to enter into a relationship of hesed, which is “covenant love” and is simply called kindness, or lovingkindness in the King James Bible. The scriptures are so clear on the fact that hesed is the core value in relationships. [Emphasis added.]

At the time I first encountered her blog, Suzanne McCarthy’s day job was teaching special-needs children.  Her gentle graciousness in imparting the wisdom she gained from these children seemed to shine a light into my soul:

The learning goals for the Down’s syndrome child are to have her identify and express her choice or personal preference. The student also learns appropriate group behaviour and how to act as hostess and leader of the group. She plans, buys and prepares the food. She cleans up. She passes the food around and passes the pen for other students to record their choice. It is her event.

Experiencing and expressing personal autonomy is essential to psychological health. These students are more than just trainable. We do not train even a child of the most limited ability as if she were anything less than fully human. She also has the experience of being the leader of the group. She controls the pace and responses. We each need the experience of functioning as a leader. We ask this for all of us, that we would also be able to experience and express choice in ways that are respectful of other people.

In a comment on her own post, Ms. McCarthy adds: “I thought that it was an important statement on authority/permission and the individual. We do not restrict even children to total submission.”

To be human, she says, is to be able to make choices for oneself, to have personal agency.  Even those we might consider the least capable need the dignity of self-expression, the experience of autonomy, and a chance to try leadership.  Here is “do unto others” in a nutshell.  And here is the definitive answer to male headship, in a post where she never overtly mentions the topic.  If full humanity cannot be realized in a state of constant subordination, how can we Christians consign women to just such a state?

It seemed to me that I could hear Jesus saying, “I had Downs syndrome, and you helped me learn to make my own choices. I was a special needs child, and you gave me dignity. I had limited abilities, and you let me experience leadership. Inasmuch as you have done this to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me.”

Later, Suzanne began blogging here on Bible Literature Translation, and she, with the other members of that group, ended up inviting me to join.  To be honest, with my simple Bachelor of Arts, I have always had a bit of an inferiority complex about posting my stuff among the much more erudite offerings of my fellow members– but Suzanne McCarthy made a special effort to make me feel valued as a contributor, however infrequently I posted.

In January 2014 Suzanne announced on BLT that she had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  It was in the context of this that she shared her post There are Worse Things than Dying:

No matter what, the overwhelming trauma of living 30 years in complementarianism will not fade. The further away I get, the more I experience a normal, loving life, the more I realize that I lived those 30 years in severe physical and psychological pain and trauma. I will never be able to describe the absolute terror of living 30 years in a form of bondage that was supposedly willed on me, not by culture, not by my own stupidity, but by God when he created the world. That is what I believed. I tremble as I write this. It brings on nausea and shaking. It was completely terrible. But that is what Carson teaches, but he has never experienced the trauma himself. He wills it on the other sex.

Not all women experience complementarianism the way I did. However, the reality is that not once, while I was in the situation, did I express my true feelings about this belief. How would anyone know what women caught in this web of suppression really think? In the situation, there was a kind of numbness that keeps one going. There is a way to live and not live, at the same time. That is what it was like.

I did not experience complementarianism in marriage like that, but I do know and have experienced how God’s name is taken in vain when it is used as an instrument of power and control.  As I read her words, I was humbled and blessed by the transparency and openness with which Suzanne McCarthy wrote. Her writing was embued with the power of her mind and the beauty of her heart, and I have to say it has spoken to me as few others have in my life.

Perhaps it’s also because she loved the wild places like I do, and could write about them like this:

I am looking out my window
at the mountain now
That we climbed last fall
To train for further climbs we said
But we didn’t really know.

From the summit
we gazed down
On straits and islands
To the west
On city to the south

And to the north
The serried ranks
Of mauve tinted peaks
Reached to infinity.

We lay spreadeagled
on the soft sand table
The very topmost leaf of land
From which everywhere
Is down

And the ravens dipped
Out of the wild blue sky
And the thrumming beat
of their broad wings
Echoed through our bones
And their black serrated spans
pinned us to the earth

Then we hurried down
Heels digging in the gravel
And promised to each other
That we would return next summer

With pencils and paper,
Sketchpad and notebook
And a day’s worth of food and water

But we never did.


The mountain came to me
And I lay myself down
Face to the moss carpet
That edges the creeks
You cross as you ascend

This is the return
To the earth before Adam and Eve
When we were children playing
In the land before time
I see the children playing

— that I feel as if we were in some way kindred spirits, even though we never personally met.

I will miss you, Suzanne McCarthy.  One day in eternity, I hope to take your hand and tell you how much you have meant to me.

Suzanne McCarthy: Sad News

June 16, 2015


Suzanne Ethelwyn McCarthy

December 14, 1955 – June 12, 2015

With deep sadness and love, we announce that Suzanne Ethelwyn McCarthy, née Hayhoe, passed away at the Dorothy Ley Hospice in Toronto, after a long struggle with breast cancer.

Beloved wife of Jay Frankel, beloved mother of John Cormac McCarthy and Helen Eva McCarthy, beloved mother-in-law of Lindsay Marie McCarthy, beloved grandmother of Wyatt Hudson Cormac McCarthy, and beloved sister of Doris Morris [Bill], Elizabeth Francisco [Bruce], Ruth Hayhoe [Walter Linde], Douglas Hayhoe [Maurita], Alice Hayhoe, Cecil Hayhoe [Joan], and Louise Sinclair [Blair].

Suzanne was born in Toronto on December 14, 1955, the seventh of eight children of Richard Scott Hayhoe and Doris Emilie Guignard Hayhoe. After attending Humberside Collegiate Institute, in Toronto, where she studied several languages, among other subjects, Suzanne specialized at the University of Toronto in the study of linguistics, French, German, Greek, and Hebrew, and for a year pursued French-language biblical studies at Institut Emmaüs, in Vevey, Switzerland. In 1978, she received her B.A. in Classics and Modern Languages from the University of Toronto as a French Specialist. She pursued further studies there, focusing on the teaching of primary and secondary French, and receiving a diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language, in 1979. She received her M.A. in Education from the Franco-Ontarian Centre at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, at the University of Toronto, in 1994, writing her thesis on the Cree syllabary and writing system.

Suzanne was an authority on the history of biblical translation as well as written language systems. In addition to her scholarly contributions to understanding the Cree writing system, she was an incisive critic of the recent movement in some circles to translate the Bible in ways designed to reinforce and sanctify the submission of women—the topic of her book, whose publication we look forward to.

Having worked as a French teacher, Suzanne later worked for many years as a teacher of children with special needs in the Vancouver, BC school system. She loved the outdoors, especially the woods, and was also an avid reader and an elegant, graceful writer and poet. She faced her long final illness with characteristic courage and dignity. She was an honest, forthright, humble, respectful, and kind person, and her active love for her children and others in her life was her foundation for living.