Adah & Zillah: Chav-ah’s (Eve’s) Genealogy

Adah Zillah Genealogy Arabia
Map: What is happening in Arabia in 1000BCE? Up until around this date, most of Arabia has been entirely uninhabited. Nomadic groups live on the margins, where grasslands allow their herds of sheep and goats to graze, but the barren interior has not allowed any peoples to establish a foothold. At around this time, however, the camel is domesticated. These hardy animals allow nomads to travel long distances in the desert. Trade routes across the Arabian peninsula begin to be pioneered, and oases begin to be populated. The classic “bedouin” lifestyle begins to take shape. Perhaps related to these developments, a new civilization is emerging in southwest Arabia, based on large-scale irrigation systems which bring the dry but fertile soil of the region to life. Credit: Timemap


In the first post in this series, we looked at Chav-ah (Eve), the first woman and the beginning of her matrilocal Mother House, situated East of Eden.  Eve gave birth to three named sons: Cain, Abel, and Seth.  Cain murdered Abel, his brother. From Cain come the Kenites 1.

The Semitic languages 2 respectively. For those tribes to develop there had to be women’s seed (ovum) which brings us now to the Mothers.

The Mothers: Ad-ah, Zill-ah, and Naam-ah

There are three Mothers in Cain’s patriarchal genealogy and none recorded in Seth’s linage. These three Cainite Mothers, Ad-ah, Zill-ah, and Zillah’s daughter, Naam-ah, stem from Eve’s Mother House. They are very important players in God’s plan for future Israel.

The Cainites (Kenites) play an important role in Israel’s future. Pleas watch for the paper ‘Kenites’ in the near future. We do not encounter women in Seth’s linage until Sarah and her sister Milcah are named after the flood.

The women built up their own Mother Houses in Eve’s matriline: it was ‘in the way of women’ to do so. It was in keeping with the ancient system of kinship and land ownership and land inheritance through the Mother. 3

Matrilineal kinship through women-only

In ancient times, matrilineal kinship through women-only prevailed throughout the earth. In this way individuals related through a common female relative. Husbands and wives had different kinship affiliations. Children were of the same kinship group as their mother. In matrilineal systems, the mother’s brother (maternal uncle to his sister’s children) played a vital role, since a child often inherited from his mother’s brother. 5

When we read Genesis chapters 4 and 5, the children are recorded as Adam’s offspring. These genealogies are overwhelmingly made up of men’s names. In many cases the gender or genuineness of those names cannot be proved.

According to female kinship, the names recorded there are ‘kin’ in the truest sense of the word: all of one Mother’s House. Therefore, listed under their mother’s names they are all of one blood. The Hebrew Scriptures identify these kin as: ‘bone of bone and flesh of flesh’.

We now begin our journey to trace the building of the Mother’s matrilines as they continue through daughters born to them. 6.

To date I have not read any bible commentary on sisters marrying by deciding to take the same man into their tents for the sake of siring children. This is the opposite of the patriarchal record always showing the (proactive) man marrying the (passive) woman. However, there are two instances that cannot be ignored here in early Genesis which shows that this may have been practiced.  Here, the sister’s, Adah and Zilpah’s marriage relationship with Lamech appears to reflect that motif 7 to Lamaech shows the first breakaway from the model of one woman and one man in a monogamous relationship. According to patriarchal interpretation, however, they are the first women to suffer the fate of polygamous marriage. This patriarchal interpretation suggests Lamech their husband instigated this polygamous arrangement. But to do so presumes the women were subservient, passive, and passionless. It also advances the idea that the sisters readily left or were stolen from their Mother’s House.

It suits patriarchal interpretation to hypothesise the notion that the sisters were stolen away or willingly left their kin to marry Lamech. In leaving their kin, it then follows that they dwelt in and produced children in a patrilineal household. However, a plain reading of the text does not show that. The women are listed in Eve’s linage under her son, Cain. My argument here challenges the patriarchal interpretation as one of an exogamous marriage and a male instigated polygamous relationship with Lamech as the head of the house.

To interpret as a polygamous relationship fits the patriarchal social model of exogamy resulting in a patrilineal household. It also constitutes violence against women. Rather, the evidence shows that the marriage arrangement of the two sisters with Lamech, all recorded in Chav-ah’s  line, through Cain, was an endogamous one. 8

In summarising the above, and just as the patriarchal interpreters do, let’s allow the speculation. That is, it is possible the women entered into an arrangement acceptable to them, that satisfied them. It is entirely possible the sisters were satisfied with just one man to sire their children. Perhaps this was common 9. Certainly, it was paramount to the continuity of the family structure of the Mother’s House that the land was not broken up. (E/n [iii]).

This means, the members of the mother’s house identified themselves as close kin (today we would say, ‘extended maternal side of the family’). This included the mother’s brothers, sisters,  cousins,  aunts, and uncles. Marriage between aunt and nephew is recorded where a woman named Jochebed, a daughter of Levi, the mother of Miriam, Aaron and Moses.

Jochebed married Amram, her nephew, of the same mother’s house and also a Levite. Jochebed is Amram’s aunt (Ex 6:20). Both spring from the unnamed wife of Levi, albeit different generations. This account offers both matrilineal and patrilineal  descent from Levites. The general comment on this is it may be in order to magnify the religious credentials of Miraim, Aaron and Moses.

As the kinship units grew, they became households. From these maternal clans formed: (a larger group of sisters and brothers, cousins and distant cousins). Finally groups of rural villages clustered together, spreading and more established.

They only identified as tribes, while all still relating to the one mother, when collectively they united under the name of the one patriarch. This is seen in the instance of  internal and external disputes threatened Israel. Internally, Israel’s tribes gathered together under one mother’s house or where an external war threatened they gathered as tribes under one father.  Hence those long male genealogies.

Later, in the matter of violence toward women we do find violence accompanied the stealing of mother’s daughters from their land and house. One particular case stands out. That is the unique case of the daughters of Benjamin. 10

In the case of external wars outside, the tribes of Israel certainly practiced stealing foreign women. It was impossible to stamp out, Moses had no option but to provide laws to restrain such practice which went against the social order of endogamy.

Further, the endogamous household and kin had no daughters-in-law or sons-in-law. This is a more recent invention of patriarchy to accommodate their social system. 11


Ad-ah and Zill-ah

The only women named in Eve’s linage are three mothers: Ad-ah, Zill-ah, and Naam-ah. It is accepted generally that two of the women Adah and Zillah were sisters. These two, through Cain, are the first in crucial matters concerning a change in marriage in the early kinship of women. 12

‘And Ad-ah and Zill-ah married Lamech’ (Gen 4: 19)  [Paraphrased by Patricia].

AD-AH and her two sons: Jabal and Jubal


Adah gave birth to her first son Jabal. Jabal was the originator of those who dwells in tents and has livestock (a condition characterising the later Kenites (Gen 4: 20).

Tents and Livestock


Tents and Livestock: a condition characterising the later Kenites (other than the Rechabites). Cain himself was sedentary. He built and lived in a city. However, the murderer’s descendants were landless.

Cain’s line: Bedouins

The first bedouins, unlike nomads, who lived in tents only during certain seasons, lived in tents, thus continually moving following their livestock. A famous Kenite Bedouin woman named Jael lived in her tent. 13 When we look at the Kenites as a tribe, however, we will find some others were not nomadic.

The Bedouin way of life, moving with the flocks and living in tents signals a new social order arising out of a need for stock and pastures. It appears  their wives accompanied them on their wanderings, but living in their own tents.

On the other hand, Abraham was nomadic. He wandered with his flocks in Beersheba. Sarah did not wander with him. She lived in her tents with her flocks and servants atop Hebron’s plateau and did not move around.


Jubal was the originator of all those who plays the lyre and pipe. (Gen 4: 21).  [Paraphrased by Patricia]


Jubal’s maternal aunt was Naam-ah, of whom we learn more about in the next paper. Several Jewish traditions associate Naam-ah with singing, others with teaching. It means Naam-ah had a strong influence on Jubal, her maternal nephew.

Zill-ah and her two children: Tubal-cain (son) and Naam-ah (daughter)


Tubal-Cain was the ‘forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron (Gen 4: 22a , also Ezk 27: 13).

Cutting instrument of brass and iron

A condition characterising the later Kenites. Lamech the father of Tubal-cain appears as if he may have had a strong influence on Tubal-cain, his son. Given his swaggering words, Lamech is associated with violence and murder. 14

The Kenites were important in the spiritual development of early Israel (see my paper ‘Kenites’ published late December 2020). This famous tribe spring from Adah and Zillah’s sons and their unnamed wives (presumably their maternal aunts and / or cousins). 

Continued next time …  Zillah’s daughter: Naam-ah (Gen 4: 22b).

Hope to meet up next time when we take a closer look at Naam-ah.

Much love,




Thinking about Adah and Zillah …

We may have read these two women previously and thought of them as used and abused. Yet looking at them in a new light allows hope to shine through.

Consider …

Have you previously read the bible and thrown it away from you or skipped over certain passages due to patriarchal interpretation as those readings only added to your pain and disappointment in your experience of patriarchal Christianity?

Have you cried out to God for answers and largely due to lack of scriptural evidence your hope was deferred, and you grew sick in heart?

Do you plan to stay in that state now that you have found a new source of hope?

Will you not turn back from your backsliding ways and renew your vows to your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?

If so, pray this prayer with me:

Almighty Everlasting Eternal God …

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done

I put everything I am, and own, on your altar

I give to you all that I am, all I shall ever be.

Make me as one that serves.

Lead me, show me your will,

Take away anything that is holding me back

from knowing Jesus

the face of the HOLY MYSTERIOUS ONE, the Great I AM, the Almighty God,

Take away that which prevents me from becoming who I am becoming.

I forgive …. Please forgive me.

Please supply my daily needs.

Give me the personal conviction I lack

to live these days in embodied prophetic action






[i] Says Prof. Robertson Smith of Cambridge: ‘In Genesis, marriage is (defined as implying that a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh. This is quite in accordance with what we find in other parts of the patriarchal story. Mr. McLennan has cited the marriages of Jacob, in which Laban plainly has the law on his side in saying that Jacob had no right to carry off his wives and their children; and also the fact that when Abraham seeks a ‘wife for Isaac, his servant thinks that the condition will probably be that Isaac shall come and settle with her people. All these things illustrate in Genesis 2:24 as the primitive type of marriage.’

Bushnell comments: In this case, Abraham would not consent, because Sarah had requested she come to take her place as Chief in her tent in Hebron to continue building her house and also knowing God had expressly called them away from practicing idolatry. Joseph’s children by his Egyptian wife became Israelites only by adoption: and so in Judges 15, Samson’s Philistine wife remains with her people and he visits her there. And we might ask, what does that primitive form of language mean,–‘cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,’ but that he shall become of the same kin as his wife? The same writer says: ‘Mother kinship is the type of kinship, common motherhood the type of kindred unity, which dominates all Semitic speech.’

J.P. Peters, D.D., writing of this same passage in Genesis says: ‘In the relation which man is here represented as holding towards woman, we have, apparently, another of that incidental evidence of the great antiquity of this story. It is not the woman who leaves father and mother and cleaves to the man, but the man who leaves father and mother, and cleaves to his wife. It would seem as though we had a survival of the old matriarchate, that relation of the marriage of which we have an example in the Samson story, where the woman remains with her tribe, or clan, or family, and is visited by the man. The offspring in such a case belongs to the woman’s family, not the man’s’ (Bushnell. Early Hebrew Story, p. 223). Para 57.)

[ii] Katharine C. Bushnell (1856-1946) Free download. “Can’t recommend this book enough”! Patricia

[iii] The word in its purest form, polygamía, is a ‘state of marriage to many spouses’: the practice of marrying multiple spouses. Patriarchal interpretation only allows for one outcome: When a man is married to more than one wife at the same time. When a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, sociologists call this polyandry. In contrast to polygamy, monogamy is marriage consisting of only two parties.

My research shows polyandry was/ is more prevalent where land fragmentation means dividing up the land between men, thus lessening the bargaining power of blood brothers, the sons of one man/ sons of the man’s chief wife. When we consider my argument that the women-owned the land it is entirely possible sisters of one mother chose to marry only one man and had the siring rights to him.

In beginning, Adam was a murderer bringing death into the world through sin. The Hebrew scriptures show no Israelite murderer owned land. Men are the sons of Adam. The greed for land ownership exhibited by the majority of men and history records it. It still resonates in the male psyche today. This seems to me to echo a fear associated with landlessness. The Creator knew land ownership was/ is critical for women. Today the need has not abated. Below, India is an example.

The crucial point made here is, that although women in India have the legal right to own land, very few actually do as a result of the patriarchal practices which dominate the nation. Up until recently, Indian women have been left out of laws regarding the distribution of public land and were forced to rely on the small possibility of obtaining private land from their families. Inheritance laws that cater to men are one of the key issues behind inequality in land rights.

According to Bina Agarwal, land ownership defines social status and political power in the household and in the village, shaping relationships and creating family dynamics. Therefore, the inheritance of land automatically puts men above women both in the household and in the community. Without political pull in the village, and with limited bargaining powers within the household, women lack the voice to advocate for their own rights.

Another issue with land rights in India is that they leave women completely dependent on the lives of their husbands. A study by Bina Agarwal found that in West Bengal, prosperous families turn destitute when the male head of the household dies, as women are not permitted to take over their husband’s land. Also, due to cultural tradition, the higher the status of the woman, the less likely she is to have any developed skills that would be useful in finding work. These women are forced to beg for food and shelter once their husbands die because they have not been allowed to gain work experience (Kanakalatha Mukund).

Bina Agarwal argues that land ownership significantly decreases the chance of domestic violence against Indian women. Owning property elevates women to a higher status within the household, allowing more equality and bargaining power. In addition, owning property separately from their husbands allowed women an opportunity to escape from abusive relationships. Agarwal concluded that the prospect of a safe shelter outside of the main household decreases the longevity of domestic violence.


Earliest Christianity: Diaspora – Social Context and Sacred Text

Question: What part did Diaspora play in the success of early Christian mission not only be location but by interaction?

‘The growth and transformation of Christianity in the years between the death of Jesus and the accession of Constantine, from roughly 30 to 312 CE cannot fail to evoke a reaction of one kind and another’.  John Gager.                                      


This essay will show that the Greek-speaking Diaspora was one of a number of major factors to which the early Christian mission owed its success not only by location but also by interaction.  

Christianity began in Palestine and rapidly spread throughout the then thoroughly Hellenised Mediterranean world.  ‘The Hellenistic period is usually regarded as the three hundred year span between the death of Alexander in 323 BCE and the beginning of the reign of the first Roman emperor, Augustus in 31 BCE’ (Dunstan, 2000: 418).  Following the Babylonian exile of the Jews (587 BCE) the Persian Cyrus finally came to power (538 BCE).  Cyrus presented the exiled Jews with the opportunity to return and resettle Palestine.  Those who responded were, in the main, the rich and influential of the exiled Jews.  Others opted to stay in Babylon.  Eventually, Babylon was re-founded by Alexander, which together with Seleucia on the Tigris (founded 312 BCE) had the greatest population of Jews as well as being the most populous cities of the whole east.  

The Jews language in Babylon was Aramaic.  However, particularly in the matter of business and legal dealings, and with the spread of Hellenism throughout the east, these Jews began to integrate with the new world in order to survive.  Through their mutual language, these Babylonian Jews were inextricably linked with those who returned to Palestine.  ‘The original social location of the Jesus movement was as diverse sectarian groups within Palestinian Jewish society’ (Freedman:1997).  This tie with the Jews in the east helped carry over Hellenistic influences and in particular the Greek language to those in Palestine.  Finally, they all became bilingual, as did the rest of the Mediterranean world. 

Aside from the link with the Aramaic speaking Jews there were other influences of Hellenism in orthodox Palestine.  Through ‘strong religious ties’ these influences ‘were maintained by means of the annual pilgrimages to the temple, the paying of the half-shekel offering for the daily sacrifices and the acceptances of daily regulation on liturgical matters (eg dealing with the calendar) from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin’ (Hanson, 1998: 70).  Aside from attending temple, house churches were established by the early Jewish Christians, ‘And every day, in the temple and at home, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus as the Christ.’ (Acts 5:42) Nevertheless, ‘the history of the Jews in Palestine is but a small segment of the history of the Jewish people in the Hellenistic period’ (Koester, 1982: 219 in RELS 306: 22).  

The importance of the Diaspora Jewish synagogue in early Christian mission cannot be overstated.  The Jews were zealous in active missionary zeal.  They built synagogues wherever they resettled, attracting ‘god-fearers’ and proselytes.  Outside Jerusalem the Diaspora Jewish synagogue served as the community hall.  Those propagating Christianity put this ‘sacred space’ to good use.  ‘One has only to consider Paul’s missionary strategy as described in the Acts of the Apostles – using Jewish synagogues as his first base of operation – to recognise how vital it was for the new movement to have certain structures established throughout the Roman world’ (Hanson, 1998: 69-70).  ‘Thus in a special sense, one might argue that the availability of the synagogue as a model for the religious community helped to preserve primitive Christianity from extinction’ (Gager, 1975: 129).   

Greater movement of Jews in Hellenistic times ‘began an independent religious and cultural development’ (Koester, 1982: 220 in RELS 306: 23).  Large foreign settlements were to be found in most trading and commercial centres.  Archaeological evidences of synagogues, cemeteries and other identifiably Jewish buildings were strewn across the length and breadth of the Roman Empire, and even beyond.  The Diaspora Synagogue service acted as a model for the early Christian mission to imitate.  There the people took turns reciting prayers with the reading Scripture being the most important event.  All were welcome to participate.  Both the observances of the Jewish Sabbath and annual religious festivals continued.  Strabo, a Hellenistic geographer (+25 CE approx.) says of the Jew’s dispersion throughout the Mediterranean world, ‘it was not easy to find a place in the inhabited world which this tribe (Jews) has not penetrated and which has not been occupied by it’ (Hanson, 1998: 69).  

As part of this development the Jews sacred literature was another factor that aided Christianity in its success.  This huge body of Jewish literature had undergone changes during the Babylonian exile.  There, their sacred text, originally written in the Palestinian language, underwent change to Aramaic.  This linguistic change then became the most influential amongst the Jews of the east in its varied forms.  However, the most influential change for our study here was when the Hebrew Scriptures and other Jewish literary heritage were translated into Greek koine.  

Once Jewish literary heritage became available in the Greek language it came under the influences of Hellenism.  Consequently, Judaist literature, thought, and institutions of the Hellenistic world of the Diaspora influenced their Christian counterparts.  Not only that, Gager claims that in a real sense Hellenistic Christianity alone preserved the legacy of Hellenistic Judaism and so much so, that the Christian churches simply followed in the footsteps of the Jewish Diaspora.  ‘Diaspora Judaism provided a blue print, precise to the finest detail, for the adaptation of Christianity to the Greco- Roman world’ (Gager, 1975: 126).  ‘Christian congregations simply adopted them, unaltered, for their own use – liturgical, apologetic, and otherwise (Gager, 1975: 127).  ‘As Greek koine became the language of the Bible, of liturgy, preaching, and literature, so did Hellenistic concepts and ideas invade Jewish thinking and bring fundamental changes in the tradition and reception of Israel’s literary inheritance’ (Koester, 1982: 224 in RELS 306: 25).  

This language change made the Hebrew Bible available to the whole of the Mediterranean Greek-speaking world as early as 111 BCE.  Its influence in this world and for the overall success of Christianity cannot be emphasised enough.  ‘In its missionary activities in the Greek-speaking world, Christianity was able to take its starting point from this Hellenization of the Old Testament inheritance’ (Koester, 1982: 225 in RELS 306: 25).  Influenced by Hellenism and as the Jews dispersion increased, Hellenistic Diaspora Judaism continued to change.  Therefore, Diaspora communities, like other ethnic or religious groups, became ‘associations’ recognised by the Greek or Roman jurisdictions.  Hence their ‘theological’ statements became ‘philosophy’, their ‘theocrasy’ became ‘democracy’, and their ‘ecclesia’ granted members equal rights to vote or elect a council (Koester, 1982: 225 in RELS 306: 25).

Jews enjoyed reasonable relations in Egypt and Palestine under Ptolemaic rule (305 BCE) and later Roman (30 BCE) authorities.  At the time of the Babylonian exile some Jews went to Egypt.  Later in Egypt we find Diaspora Jews playing a vital role in the life of the new city, Alexandria, which became one of the great cultural centres of the Mediterranean world.  It was here that the museum and library ‘the greatest of all ancient institutions intended primarily for scholarship and research … containing everything of note ever written in Greek’ was housed (Dunstan, 2000: 402).  Alexandria had  ‘roughly one million inhabitants during its period of greater glory’ (Dunstan, 2000: 400).  

Mercenaries from all over the Greek world dramatically swelled Alexandria’s numbers.  ‘A substantial number of Greek speakers had come to Egypt in the fourth century BCE as mercenaries and traders’.  Free land was available to the military.  Jews co-existed here with Egyptians and Persians, with a cadre of Macedonians and Greeks forming the citizen body.  The Jews ‘maintained their traditional societies and customs’ enjoying religious freedom (Dunstan, 2000: 396).  Onas 1V, an expatriate high priest (c. 170 BCE – 73 CE) set up a temple in Alexandria.   

Jewish residents in other cities of Egypt also enjoyed the freedom of religion and association where, in all, the common language spoken was Greek.  Of the city of Cyrene in North Africa, Strabo writes ‘there were four classes in the city – citizens, farmers, resident aliens, and Jews’.  These Jewish communities enjoyed free association for religious purposes and legal status.  This explains why we find fully organised quasi-autonomous Jewish communities with their own synagogues, officials and judicious system within the Greek cities, and also in Rome.  Therefore, not only Judaism, but the different Hellenistic communities legal structures recognised by the various city charters eventually served as models ‘for Christian groups to organise along similar lines’ (Hanson, 1998: 72-3).  

The Jewish Diaspora saw two thousand Jewish families from Mesopotamia resettled in the regions of Phrygia and Lydia in Asia Minor (c. 210 BCE) and as we have noted, preparing the way for the further spread of Christianity.  These were promised religious freedom and various tax incentives in return for them taking care of Seleuceid interests in a troubled area (Hanson, 1998: 71).  Seleucia, a vast and complex kingdom was the largest area among the Hellenistic kingdoms with the great commercial capital noted for its luxuries and sensual pleasures, enjoying tremendous prosperity as the terminus of the caravan routes from India and eastern Iran.  Antioch-on-Orontes was its capital and the kingdom’s last territory, Syria, annexed as a Roman province in 64 BCE, ended the second of the great Hellenistic kingdoms (Dunstan, 2000: 406).  

The Hellenised native states of Galatia, Capadocia, Pontus, and Bithinia, soon followed suit in northern and central Asia Minor (Dunstan, 2000: 403-4).  Pergamum was an architectural masterpiece and cultural centre fashioned after Athens the Greek city-state, exploiting the disarray in the third century BCE.  Pergamum’s riches were eventually bequeathed to Rome in 133 BCE.  The consequences of granting the petition of Hellenising Jewish leaders to stamp Jerusalem with the forms of a Greek city, finally installing Zeus in the Jerusalem temple, provoked the outbreak of an uprising in 167 BCE, the Maccabean revolt- which soon turned into a vicious civil war with anti Greeks fighting pro Greeks.  ‘During the reign of Antiochus 1V from 175 BCE the rulers began an unaccustomed program of “Hellenising”, forcing Greek ways on the Jews in a manner that often clashed with and compromised their religious beliefs’ (RELS 306: 16).  In 142 BCE the Seleucid garrison was expelled from Jerusalem.  

As important as it was not everyone saw Diaspora as the major factor in the success of Christianity.  For example, Origin saw the spread of Christianity was contingent on Augustus’ creation of an ordered, unified, and reasonably peaceful empire after decades of internal strife’.  Contrary to Origin’s theory, there is no record that shows Augustus’ peaceful rule nurtured the flourishing of other religious cults (Gager, 1975: 122).  

The extension of Roman rule throughout the Mediterranean basin, accompanied by its basic attitude of tolerance, created a political structure through which the international character of Hellenistic culture reached its fullest expression.  This relatively peaceful political climate provided by Augustus also allowed ease of travel for both Jewish and Christian missionaries.  Roman law, cultural unity, and the recognition of local customs everywhere – included broad privileges extended to Jewish communities.  However, neither can Christianity’s early mission success rely entirely on Rome’s initial religious tolerance

Nevertheless, all of this did foster an international character of the Empire that was reflected in almost every major city.  These privileges allowed the Jews to recognise the Sabbath as well as conduct their own autonomously governed legal courts.  The Jews found sanctuary in Rome under various rulers, such as Caesar, Mark Antony, Augustus and Claudias who made general appeals that the rights of the Jews ‘to live according to their ancestral laws’ be recognised.  By the first century CE there was a large Jewish community in Rome.  The earliest synagogue found in Rome dates from 3rd century BCE;  the earliest church in Rome was established by 41 CE (Perkins, 1988: 41-42 in RELS 306: 57).  

The spread of the Greek language was another important factor in Christianity’s success.  Slavery was central to the Greek civilisation, mentality, and way of life.  Slaves therefore were found carrying out every conceivable task amongst the families and wider circle of contacts in Greece.  Bi-lingual slaves specially were active spreading the Greek language amongst Rome’s upper class households by way of educating their children.  Other slaves acted as secretaries and overseers, tutors and governors, traders and craftsmen.  Roman culture could not escape the influences Hellenism brought and by the time of the later republic all educated Romans were also bi-lingual as were its traders (RELS 306: 21).

Again, not everyone saw the rapid spread of Christianity in the same light.  John Gager points out that it is purely a matter of perspective, and depending upon our given perspective, it will shape our vision.  ‘Some see the success of Christianity  – and I use the term in a strictly quantitative sense – as the work of divine providence, such as Paul of Tarsus (Gal 4:5-5), Clement of Alexandria (Stromatia 1.28.3) and Origin (Against Celsus 2.30) (Gager, 1975: 117).  Alternatively, others saw it as an unfortunate accident that contributed mightily to the demise of ancient Rome, and still others as the salutary blending of the best elements of Greco Roman and Semitic civilisations.  Pliny in 112 CE wrote ‘but I discovered nothing else than a perverse and extravagant superstition … for may of all ages and every rank, and also both sexes are bought into present and future danger’ (Gager, 1975: 115).  Yet others, like Edward Gibbon The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire sees it as a social cancer and blames it on the decay of philosophy and the rise of superstition (Gibbon in Gager, 1975: 117).  

With the changes and activities and opportunity of travel taking place in the Mediterranean world country people left their agrarian lifestyles and poured into the cities, in some cases creating homelessness and poverty.  They brought with them their unique religions – the mystery cults.  These cults offered protection and new life here and after with a personal and private nature in a relationship available with the infinite.  The existence of many gods indistinguishable from one another facilitated the initial founding of Christian communities.  Thus in the last phase the cult of the old gods was not much different from the forms of worship that developed in Diaspora Judaism and in Christianity’ (RELS 306: 39).  

The rich and poor alike yearned for peace and identity, a happy and secure life, a sense of belonging, carrying a special appeal to the dispossessed of society.  ‘As a reforming sect, the (Jewish Christian) movement would have offered… participation to individuals and groups, including dissidents, women, and marginal groups, that would have felt left out of the traditional power structure’ (Freedman: 1997).  It was both ‘a religious and a social phenomenon’ (Gager, 1975: 131).  In a world fraught with anxiety it offered a sense of community that, according to Gager retained the loyalty of converts (1975:131).  

As well as offering a sense of community the Jew’s belief in monotheism served Christianity’s success with Greek philosophy and religion also playing their part.  Greek philosophy introduced ‘the search for some kind of universal principle’ and ‘the relation between a man’s [sic] inner and outer self (body and spirit)’ (Freyne, 1980: 30 in RELS 306: 44).  These all served to replace and incorporate different religious ideas.  At the centre of Greek philosophy was the ‘Eternal Principle or Logos (Reason) whose spark exists in all reality, man [sic] included, thereby constituting the unity of all creation’ (Freyne, 1980: 30).  Although early Christianity ridiculed the religion and gods of the Greco-Roman culture, it nevertheless appropriated much of it for the purposes of furthering the gospel (Garrison, 1997: 14).  

Alternatively, the Hebrew God called people into a covenantal relationship with divinity doing away with fate’s power over their lives, hence Christianity’s appeal to all classes in the Greco Roman world (RELS 306: 40-41).  As well, the Stoics developed sense of ‘being true to one’s inner self, and, following the call of God’ created a climate in which monotheism or belief in one God was more readily acceptable (Freyne, 1980: 28 in RELS 306: 44-5).  The Greek Philosopher, Epicurus’ answer was geared toward achieving inner harmony and happiness in this life, to ‘eat drink and be merry’ seen as there is nothing after death (Freyne, 1980: 29 in RELS 306: 43).  Overall a considerable degree of religious pluralism and assimilation took place involving, in the main, Greek, Roman, and Jewish religion, with an increasing acceptance of oriental rites.  

In sum, the Jewish Diaspora was one of the major factors in the success of early Christian mission.  Initially, Hellenistic enculturation of the Jews and their literature together with the use of the local Jewish synagogues provided the means for Jewish Christianity to become firmly engrafted into Judaism.  Once it took hold, it grew up and bore seed.  These seeds became embedded in the cultural carriers of transformation and were inevitably dispersed to the four corners of Greece’s expansive borders and territories.  Travelling in the wake of a multicultural mobile population of merchants, military, personnel, and slaves, as it did, and aided by the winds of change, mutation took place in every conceivable way.  

9Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judaea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, 10in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabians’.  Book of Acts Chapter 2.


Early Church & Process of Institutionalisation with Christianity Timeline

  1. Consider the way in which authority, maintenance and control of Christianity are exercised.

This essay will consider ways in which a number of key elements, namely authority, maintenance and control, resulting in stability and growth, were maintained within Christianity together with some of their positive and negative outcomes.

Following the death of Christianity’s original founder, Jesus of Nazareth, the “process of institutionalization” began with the “most critical test of survival” the transference of authority and the establishment of it as transcendent. Eventually for the maintenance and control of the group’s growth, this authority was invested in the church, per se,as the “only channel by which God communicates grace and salvation to men” (sic) (T. Patrick Burke, p 301, The Major Religions: An Introduction with Texts).

By this process “strong governance“, one of the key elements in survival was instituted (p 75, UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes).  This “routinization of charisma” (Roberts p 75) takes place when those designated begin to maintain and control the group.  These leaders are identified as “religious professionals; those members of the group form the core sub group that concerns itself with matters of policy, as well as the behavior and ritual life of the group” (p 75).

Werner Stark characterises the “priest or professional as someone with a conservative or conserving function” (p 75 in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes), and, as “something learned with the aid of routine teaching methods, where a person is set aside for the job by the group”.  Stark further maintains that without the development of the priests or professionals the group would not be able to retain “cultural continuity”, “effective mobilization”, or “dense internal network relations” (p 75).  Such leaders add stability and permanence to the group by supporting it to move towards having a clear identity, greater cohesion and survival.

The professional and priest are also important to the maintenance of such things as the purity, interpretation, and teaching of the sacred text, as well as pastoral and social care of the group.  However, both Roberts and Stark agree that another key element is the members themselves “needing to commit to the organization” so that, amongst other things, a “stable economic base” can be established (p 75).

However, there are negative aspects to this authoritative hierarchical organization and control invested in the priests and the professional, particularly where it grows beyond its local boundaries.  There “armchair speculative philosophers” emerge, (Douglas Pratt, p 65, in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes) on an international scale of formalized and greater integrated networking of the highest-ranking religious professionals for the group.  The outcome of this can mean the local group becomes invisible and dehumanised.

An example of this might be seen today in the central bureaucracy of the Roman Catholic division of Christianity in the Vatican.  Where professionals control policy and practice may yield a very limited view of localized membership, and in particular the marginalization of different groups of people such as women, homosexuals, people of lower income and different color to the dominant group, resulting in their discrimination and isolation.

In sum, the professional and priest, as members of the local community, add stability and cohesiveness to the group.  However, when these functions extend beyond the local group the greater the loss of identity for the group.


Burke, T. Patrick, The Major Religions: An Introduction with Texts, 1996, Blackwell Publishers, Massachusetts.

UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes, 2002, The University of New England, Armidale, NSW.


Judaism / Emergence of Christianity Timeline

539 Temple and priesthood sacrifices

538 Fall of Jerusalem, temple sacked. Jews went into exile. No temple, priesthood, or sacrifice.

Babylon conquered by Persia Cyrus sent Jews back to rebuild temple. Sacrifices and priesthood restored.

Palestine some Jews returned. Jewish Synagogue and Rabbi’s set up to accommodate Persian Jews.

400 BCE Resurgence of Judaism Prophets recalling people to Torah “Way” lifestyle.  Emergence of Pharisaic Judaism

The Great Shift.  Jews of Judaism  /. Jews of Exile and Dispersion.


333 BCE. Alexander the Great Conquest of Ancient Near East opens up Greek Hellenising Empire.  Spread of Hellenism Language, Culture and Arts.

Diaspora Jews: synagogues and scribes  Torah “Way” changes to Torah “Teaching”, discussion, and debate.

63 BCE Roman Conquest 250 yrs Roman Empire Messianic Hope Revived Revolts amongst Jews from Roman Rule.

New religion: Christianity. Founder- Jesus of Nazareth put to death.

70 CE Temple sacked again.  Messianic Revival

First Christian Community. Leaders emerge Community=Hebraist / Hellenistic (The “Gentile Problem”)

Diaspora: Roman Persecution. Members of new Community flee

Saul of Tarsus strict Pharisee converted to Christianity’s “The Way

Roman Empire Leadership of Caesar.

100 CE Christianity’s Radical Break with Judaism

The Apologists “Messiah had come”, was “Son of God” & “Savior of the World.

The Great Creeds: Right Belief / Right practice.

Breakaway Group: Gnosticism Marcion formulated doctrine.

250 CE Emperor Nero – Persecution Christianity outlawed in Rome

300 Institutional structure and expression- Leadership entirely male.

303 CE Emperor Diocletian Christianity has patronage

323 Emperor Constantine

325 Two Great Councils Nicene Creed

395 St Augustine Bishop of Hippo

381 Constantinople (Istanbul)

Middle Ages & The Golden Age

1600 – 1800 New Movement Protestant Reformation

1900 English Missionary Movements & Colonialism

New movement Neo Pentecostalism Stream Religious Exclusivism Conservative Fundamentalism

2000 Unity & Diversity Movement fragmented Ecumenical Movement World Council of Churches





Aeschylus’ play: Xerxes in Susa ‘The Persians’ (480 BCE): A Structural Analysis

Assignment 1: Write a structural analysis on Aeschylus’ Persians’.

Aeschylus’ play, ‘The Persians’ (480 BCE), involves a narrative of six acts.  The main theme is the interpreting of an historic event, the defeat of the Persians, in terms of Greek religious ideas, highlighted by the idea that Xerxes’ pride caused him to ignore prophecy and suffer the outcome.

Opening scene: the royal palace of Xerxes in Susa.

Act 1

The chorus of Persian elders enter:

  • Anxious for the Persians army to return, the chorus laments Xerxes impetuous act of waging war by land and sea, thus breaking the decree of the gods to Persia to only seek fame and wealth on land.
  • Deluded proud mortals and the inescapability of the debt they must pay for their pride.

Act 2

Queen Atossa enters, attended, in a chariot:

  • Atossa, plagued by sinister dreams and evil omens seeks council from the elders.
  • The chorus suggest she pray to Darius for favour from the dead.

Act 3

A messenger enters:

  • The messenger’s eyewitness account confirms the elders and Atossa’s worst fears: Persia’s fleet and army are no more.
  • The chorus grieve.
  • Atossa reminds them all of their mortality and the god’s capriciousness.
  • The messenger assures Atossa that Xerxes her son together with a handful lives.

Atossa, her attendants and the messenger exit.

Act 4

The chorus laments and confesses to Zeus of Persia’s pride.

Act 5

Atossa re-enters, alone, bearing propitiatory gifts and libation.

  • Atossa announces the gifts are in honour of the underworld gods and to call up Darius from the dead.
  • The queen requests the elder’s assistance.

Darius’ Ghost arises:

  • Darius questions why they have called upon him.
  • Atossa tells him the dreadful news of Persia’s defeat.
  • Darius blames the defeat on the fulfilment of old prophecies and the mortality and arrogance of humanity, of its pride and its greed.

The ghost of Darius exits.

  • The chorus and Atossa exchange laments.

Atossa exits.

Act 6

The chorus

  • Extols Darius’ reign
  • Laments over Persia’s defeat, albeit claiming it as the will of God.

Xerxes enters in tattered clothing attended by two soldiers.

  • Xerxes and the chorus lament the death of his army, blaming it on Fate.
  • The chorus returns these same sentiments to Xerxes, weeping and beating their breasts in grief and anguish.

The chorus and Xerxes exit.

Aeschylus play flows smoothly from beginning to end without wavering from its main theme of interpreting the Persian’s defeat in terms of Greek religious beliefs which connect the work together.  It clearly shows the impious deed of pride begets after its kind the old hubris that gives birth to a train of evil consequences.


Feminist Hermeneutics – Prophets and Saints – Change and Reform.

Reflection: and Assessment Item B, Assignment 1 (500 words)

This essay will show that the rise of a feminist biblical hermeneutics came about when the original vision of early Christianity became stagnant, no longer answering the deeper questions and reflections of women in the church.

Feminist biblical hermeneutics, is “the process by which human beings understand, including the conditions under which they happen” (p 17 Majella).  In the field of biblical interpretation feminist hermeneutics houses many different positions and might be likened to a social revolution.  In keeping with Goodwin, the work of feminist hermeneutics is “intentional intervention”, by employing, a “hermenutics of suspicion”,  and a new methodology: Firenza’s methodology.

It is purposive and goal seeking, either working as isolated individuals or as organised groups (p 78).

In this sense “as a critique of culture in light of mysogyny, feminism is a prophetic movement, examining the status quo, pronouncing judgment and calling for repentance: (Phyllis trible in Feminist Hermeneutics and Biblical Studies p 23).  Like any new movement, it has made mistakes, such as picturing Judaism and Jewish women in a negative light in order to bolster Christianity (p 36 Jewish Women and Christian Origins: Some Caveats).or reproducing its own structures of oppression by ignoring Islamic hermeneutical perspective.  Majella Franzmann in her work ‘Women and Religion” addresses this issue “Thus an integral part of the hermaneutical process involves reflecting on these levels at every stage of questioning, analysis, and making critical judgments”. (p 19).

Seeking radical change, some woman/feminists goal is to re-found the existing group.  On the contrary, others do not believe it can be redeemed and desire to build a new foundation outside it.  Altogether their goal is to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow” “to build and to plant” (Jer 1:9-10).  Feminist hermeneutics bring “an alternative to the dominant myth, the old myth that can no longer claim these women’s allegiance” (p 81).

Women have always resisted masculine supremacy, however the roots of feminism as a social and intellectual movement are found in the European Enlightenment.  The doyenne of the present movement was Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Woman’s Bible” published in 1895, on her eightieth birthday. (Feminist Theology A Reader Ed Ann Loades) and more recently, feminist theologian Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza who became the first woman president of the Society of Biblical literature (p 15 Ann Loades).

Feminist hermenutics explores the implications and possibilities of a biblical interpretation that calls to account the androcentric or patriarchal explanation of Scripture.  This took place at a time when the church was stagnant and theology did not interpret women and men as co-equal members in the body of Christ, but rather as women needing a guardian, and accepting the authority of the male, mirroring the image of unjust antiquated Athenian democracy where only males of free birth could be full citizens.  Such ideology has grossly affected the way in which the scriptures have been handled.  Conversely, feminist hermeneutics offers justice and liberation to women.  It carries a message that seeks to eliminate women’s subordination and marginalization.

Other areas undergoing change is religious liturgy, linguistic structure, public worship.  Symbols that had become utterly meaningless, for example, where only male priests could act as priests to offer Eucharist or mass have been reimaged and women priests now function within the Anglican and Episcopal churches.

In sum, altogether feminist biblical hermeneutics has changed the overall understanding of women in the church and in the Scriptures, bringing about a new vision.  This movement has arisen and is renewing, reviving, refreshing, and re-imaging women and the church, women in the church, and women in the scriptures, changing the stagnation so evident a decade ago to one of fresh and living water.

Extract below from Freedman, David Noel, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, (New York: Doubleday) 1997, 1992.


 Writing a dictionary article on feminist hermeneutics may encourage several misconceptions. It gives the impression that feminist hermeneutics is a finished research product rather than an ongoing process within the context of women’s societal and ecclesial struggles for justice and liberation. It also highlights proposed solutions rather than the experiences and questions which have Engendered them. Insofar as this article is qualified by “feminist” and other entries are not marked, for instance, as “masculinist” or “white,” readers may assume that an objective discipline and unqualified approach to hermeneutics exists. As long as other contributions do not explicitly articulate the fact that knowledge and scholarship is perspectival, such a misapprehension seems unavoidable. Yet feminist inquiry is not more, but less, ideological because it deliberately articulates its theoretical perspective without pretending to be value-free, positivistic, universal knowledge.

  1. A Delineation of Terms

Since the expression “feminist” evokes reactions, emotions, and prejudices, it becomes necessary to delineate the ways in which the term is here used in conjunction with hermeneutics.

  1. Feminist/Womanist. The term “feminist” is commonly used today for describing those who seek to eliminate women’s subordination and marginalization. Although women have resisted their subordinate position of exploitation throughout the centuries, the roots of feminism as a social and intellectual movement are found in the European Enlightenment.
  2. Although there are diverse articulations of feminism, feminists generally agree in their critique of masculine supremacy and hold that gender roles are socially constructed rather than innate. The “root experience” of feminism is women’s realization that cultural “common sense,” dominant perspectives, scientific theories, and historical knowledge are androcentric, i.e., male-biased, and therefore not objective but ideological. This breakthrough experience causes not only disillusionment and anger but also a sense of possibility and power

Feminist analyses often utilize categories such as patriarchy, androcentrism or gender dualism as synonymous or overlapping concepts. Patriarchy is generally defined as gender dualism or as the domination and control of man over woman. Androcentrism refers to a linguistic structure and theoretical perspective in which man or male represents the human. Western languages such as Hebrew, Greek, German, or English—grammatically masculine languages that function as so-called generic languages—use the terms “male” or “human” as inclusive of “woman” and the pronoun “he” as inclusive of “she.” Man is the paradigmatic human, woman is the other.

Masculine and feminine are the two opposite or complementary poles in a binary gender system, which is asymmetric insofar as masculine is the primary and positive pole. Dualistic oppositions such as subject/object, culture/nature, law/chaos, orthodoxy/heresy, and man/woman, legitimate masculine supremacy and feminine inferiority. Franco-feminist criticism therefore has termed this structuring of man as the central reference point “phallocentrism,” understanding the phallus as a signifier of sociocultural authority.

The philosophical construction of reason positions elite Western man as the transcendent, universal subject with privileged access to truth and knowledge. The Western construction of reason and rationality has been conceived within the binary structure of male dominance as transcendence of the feminine

Femininity is constituted as an exclusion. In analogy to “woman” and the “feminine” the nature of subordinated and colonialized peoples is projected as the devalued other or the deficit opposite of elite Western man, rationalizing the exclusion of the “others” from the institutions of knowledge and culture.

  1. In protest of this ideological construction feminist liberation movements around the globe unmask the universalist essentializing discourse on “Woman” and the colonialized “Other” as the totalizing discourse of the Western Man of Reason. Instead, they insist on the specific historical-cultural contexts and subjectivity, as well as on the plurality, of “women.”

Women of color consistently maintain that an analysis of women’s exploitation and oppression only in terms of gender does not suffice, for it does not comprehend the complex systemic interstructuring of gender, race, class, and culture that determines women’s lives. Therefore, feminist hermeneutics must reconceptualize its categories of analysis. It has to distinguish between the categories of androcentrism or gender dualism as ideological obfuscations and legitimizations of elite male power on the one hand, and patriarchy in the strict sense of the word defined as a complex social system of male domination structured by racism, sexism, classism, and colonialism on the other hand. The system of Western patriarchal ideology was articulated centuries ago by Aristotle and Plato in their attempt to define the democratic polis, which restricted full citizenship to Greek, freeborn, propertied, male heads of household. Although cultural and religious patriarchy as a “master-centered” political and cultural system has been modified throughout the centuries its basic structures of domination and ideological legitimization are still operative today

African-American feminists in religious studies, therefore, have introduced Alice Walker’s term “womanist” (i.e., feminist of color) to signal the fact that feminism is more than a political movement and theoretical perspective of white women. When we speak of Africans, Europeans, the poor, minorities, and women, we speak as if women do not belong to all the other groups mentioned. Yet the expression “women” includes not just white, elite, Western, middle- or upper-class women, as conventional language suggests, but all women. Whereas feminist scholarship has become skilled in detecting the androcentric language and patriarchal contextualizations of malestream theory and biblical interpretation, it does not always pay attention to its own inoculation with gender stereotypes, white supremacy, class prejudice, and theological confessionalism.

Jewish feminists in turn have pointed out that Christian feminists perpetuate the anti-Semitic discourse of otherness ingrained in Christian identity formation when they uncritically reproduce the anti-Jewish tendencies inscribed in Christian Scriptures and perpetrated by malestream biblical scholarship. This is the case, e.g., when Judaism is blamed for the “death of the Goddess” or when Jesus, the feminist, is set over and against patriarchal Judaism. It also would be the case if this article on “feminist hermeneutics” would be read as giving a descriptive and comprehensive account of feminist biblical hermeneutics as such, although it is written from a Christian but not from a Jewish or Islamic hermeneutical perspective. If feminist interpretation does not wish to continually reproduce its own internalized structures of oppression, it must bring into critical reflection the oppressive patriarchal contextualizations of contemporary discourses and those of the biblical writings themselves.

  1. Feminist/Womanist Hermeneutics. While women have read the Scriptures throughout the centuries, a feminist/womanist hermeneutics as the theoretical exploration of biblical interpretation in the interest of women is of very recent vintage
  2. When one remembers Miriam, Hulda, Hanna, Mary Prisca, Felicitas, Proba, Macrina, Melania, Hildegard of Bingen, Margret Fell, Antoinette Brown, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jarena Lee, Katherine Bushnell, Margret Brackenbury Crook, Georgia Harkness, or Else Kähler, it becomes apparent that women have always interpreted the Bible. Moreover, books about Women in the Bible—mostly written by men—as well as studies of prescriptive biblical male texts about women’s role and place have been numerous throughout the centuries.

Biblical scholarship about women Engages diverse historical, social, anthropological, psychological, or literary models of interpretation without analyzing their androcentric frameworks. In addition, it tends to adopt the scientific posture of “detached” inquiry that eschews feminist politics. Although such scholarship focuses on “women,” it reproduces and reinscribes the androcentric-patriarchal dynamics of the text as long as it does not question the androcentric character of biblical texts and reconstructive models

Only in the context of the women’s movement in the last century, and especially in the past twenty years, have feminists begun to explore the implications and possibilities of a biblical interpretation that takes the androcentric or patriarchal character of Scripture into account. This exploration is situated within the context of both the academy and the church. Insofar as feminist analysis seeks to transform academic as well as ecclesial biblical interpretation, it has a theoretical and practical goal. This praxis-orientation locates feminist hermeneutics in the context of philosophical/theological hermeneutics as well as critical theory and liberation theology

  1. The technical term hermeneutics comes from the Greek word hermeneuein/hermeneia and means the practice and theory of interpretation. The expression was first used as a technical term for exegetical handbooks that dealt with philology, grammar, syntax, and style. Today the term exegesis is generally used to describe the rules and principles for establishing not only the philological, but also the historical sense, of biblical texts.

Hermeneutics, by contrast, explores the dialogical interaction between the text and the contemporary interpreter in which the subject matter of the text or the reference of discourse itself “comes-into-language.” It is not simply conveyed by, but manifested in and through, the language of the text. Understanding the meaning of texts emerges from a dialogical process between interpreter and text. This dialogical process presupposes a common pre-understanding of the subject matter of the text, since we cannot comprehend what is totally alien to our own experience and perception.

Biblical interpretation seeks to understand the text and its world as a rhetorical expression in a certain historical situation. Insofar as the interpreter always approaches biblical texts with certain preunderstandings, and from within a definite linguistic-historical tradition, the act of interpretation has to overcome the distance between the world of the text and that of the interpreter in a “fusion of horizons.” Biblical interpretation seeks to understand the text and its world as a rhetorical expression in a certain historical situation. Insofar as the interpreter always approaches biblical texts with certain preunderstandings, and from within a definite linguistic-historical tradition, the act of interpretation has to overcome the distance between the world of the text and that of the interpreter in a “fusion of horizons.” c. However, insofar as patriarchal ideology and systemic domination have been passed down through the medium of Christian Scriptures, feminist biblical interpretation does not only seek to understand but also to assess critically the meaning of androcentric texts and their sociopolitical functions. Although I have introduced the nomenclature “feminist hermeneutics” into the theological discussion, I have at the same time maintained that a critical feminist interpretation has to move beyond dialogical hermeneutics. It does not just aim at understanding biblical texts but also Engages in theological critique, evaluation, and transformation of biblical traditions and interpretations from the vantage point of its particular sociopolitical religious location. Not to defend biblical authority but to articulate the theological authority of women is the main task of a critical feminist hermeneutics.

Insofar as hermeneutical theory insists on the linguisticality of all reality and on the sociohistorical conditioning of the act of interpretation, it is useful for womanist/feminist biblical interpretation. However, dialogical hermeneutics does not consider that classic texts and traditions are also a systematically distorted expression of communication under unacknowledged conditions of repression and violence. It therefore is not able to critique the androcentric, male-centered character of Western classics and texts, nor to problematize the patriarchal character of the “world of the text” and of our own. Even Ricoeur’s insistence on the restoration of the link between exegesis and hermeneutics as the dialectics between alienating distanziation and appropriating recognition cannot encompass the transformative aims of a critical feminist hermeneutics for liberation, because such a dialectics does not get hold of the “doubled vision” of feminist hermeneutics.

  1. A Critical Feminist Hermeneutics of Liberation. Feminists/womanists have become conscious of women’s conflicting position within two contradictory discourses offered by society. Unconsciously women participate at one and the same time in the specifically “feminine” discourse of submission, inadequacy, inferiority, dependency, and irrational intuition on the one hand and in the “masculine” discourse of subjectivity, self-determination, freedom, justice, and equality on the other hand. If this participation becomes conscious, it allows the feminist/womanist interpreter to become a reader resisting the reifying power of the androcentric text.
  2. The theoretical exploration of this contradictory position of women from the vantage point of an emancipatory standpoint makes it possible to “imagine” a different interpretation and historical reconstruction. For change to take place women and other nonpersons must concretely and explicitly claim as their very own those values and visions that Western Man has reserved for himself. Yet they can do so only to the extent that these values and visions foster the liberation of women who suffer from multiple oppressions.

This “doubled vision” of feminism leads to the realization that gender relations are neither natural nor divinely ordained but linguistically and socially constructed in the interest of patriarchal power relations. Androcentric language and texts, literary classics and visual art, works of science, anthropology, sociology, or theology do not describe and comprehend reality. Rather they are ideological constructs that produce the invisibility and marginality of women. Therefore a critical feminist interpretation insists on a hermeneutics of suspicion that can unmask the ideological functions of androcentric text and commentary. It does not do so because it assumes a patriarchal conspiracy of the biblical writers and their contemporary interpreters but because when reading grammatically masculine supposedly generic texts women do not, in fact, know whether they are meant or not.

  1. The realization that women are socialized into the “feminine discourse” of their culture and thus are ideologically “scripted” and implicated in power relations Engenders the recognition that women suffer also from “a false consciousness.” As long as they live in a patriarchal world of oppression, women are never fully “liberated.” However, this does not lead feminists to argue that historical agency and knowledge of the world are not possible. Western science, philosophy, and theology have not known the world as it is. Rather they have created it in their own interest and likeness as they wished it to be. Therefore, feminists/womanists insist that it is possible for liberatory discourses to articulate a different historical knowledge and vision of the world.

In order to do so feminist/womanist scholars utilize women’s experience of reality and practical activity as a scientific resource and a significant indicator of the reality against which hypotheses are to be tested. A critical feminist version of objectivity recognizes the provisionality and multiplicity of particular knowledges as situated and “embodied” knowledges. Knowledge is not totally relative, however. It is possible from the perspective of the excluded and dominated to give a more adequate account of the “world.” In short, womanists/feminists insist that women are “scripted” and at the same time are historical subjects and agents.

Therefore, a critical feminist/womanist hermeneutics seeks to articulate biblical interpretation as a complex process of reading for a cultural-theological praxis of resistance and transformation. To that end it utilizes not only historical and literary-critical methods which focus on the rhetoric of the text in its historical contexts, but also storytelling, bibliodrama, and ritual for creating a “different” feminist imagination.

  1. Approaches and Methods

In conjunction with feminist literary criticism, critical theory, and historiography, four major hermeneutical strategies have been developed for such a critical process of interpretation.

  1. Texts About Women. a. In pondering the absence of women’s experience and voice from biblical texts and history, a first strategy seeks to recover information about women and to examine what biblical texts teach about women. This analysis usually focuses on “key” women’s passages such as Genesis 1–3; the biblical laws with regard to women; or on the Pauline and post-Pauline statements on women’s place and role. This selective approach was adopted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in The Woman’s Bible and has strongly influenced subsequent interpretations. Its “cutting up and cutting out” method isolates passages about women from their literary and historical contexts and interprets them “out of context.”

After having gathered the texts about women, scholars then catalog and systematize these texts and traditions in a dualistic fashion. They isolate positive and negative statements in order to point to the positive biblical tradition about woman. They isolate positive texts about women and the feminine from “texts of terror” that are stories of women’s victimization. All statements about woman and feminine imagery about God are cataloged as positive, ambivalent, or negative strands in Hebrew-Jewish and early Christian tradition. Negative elements are found in the Hebrew Bible as well as in the intertestamental and postbiblical writings of Judaism, whereas in the Christian tradition they are seen as limited to the writings of the Church Fathers. Such a biased classification favoring Christian over and against Jewish tradition Engenders anti-Jewish attitudes and interpretations.

  1. A second approach focuses on the women characters in the Bible. From its inception, feminist/womanist interpretation has sought to actualize these stories in role-playing, storytelling, and song. Whereas the retelling of biblical stories in midrash or legend is quite familiar to Jewish and Catholic women, it is often a new avenue of interpretation for Protestant women. Interpretations that focus on the women characters in the androcentric text invite readers to identify positively with the biblical women as the text presents them.

Since popular books on “the women of the Bible” often utilize biblical stories about women for inculcating the values of conservative womanhood, a feminist/womanist interpretation approaches these stories with a hermeneutics of suspicion. It critically analyzes not only their history of interpretation but also their function in the overall rhetoric of the biblical text. Such a critical interpretation questions the emotions they evoke and the values and roles they project before it can reimagine and retell them in a feminist/womanist key.

Within the African-American tradition of storytelling R. Weems, e.g., creatively reconstructs the “possible emotions and issues that motivated biblical women in their relation with each other” in order to draw “attention to the parallels between the plight of biblical women and women today.” Weems informs her reader that the only way she could “let the women speak for themselves” was to wrestle their stories from the presumably male narrators.

Although it is important to retell the biblical women’s stories, it is also necessary to reimagine biblical stories without women characters. In order to break the marginalizing tendencies of the androcentric text feminists/womanists have also to retell in a female voice and womanist perspective those stories that do not explicitly mention women.

  1. A third approach seeks to recover works written by women in order to restore critical attention to female voices in the tradition. This work has restored many forgotten or obscured women writers. In early Christian studies scholars have, e.g., argued that the gospels of Mark and John were written by a woman evangelist or that Hebrews as authored by Prisca. Others have pointed out that at least half of the Lukan material on women must be ascribed to a special pre-Lukan source that may have owed its existence to a woman evangelist. While such a suggestion expands our historical-theological imagination, it does not critically explore whether the androcentric text communicates patriarchal values and visions, and if so to what degree. It fails to consider that women also have internalized androcentric stereotypes and therefore can reproduce the patriarchal politics of otherness in their speaking and writing.
  2. Historical studies of women in the Bible or that of Jewish, Greek, or Roman women are generally topologicalstudies that utilize androcentric texts and archaeological artifacts about women as source texts. They understand these sources as descriptive data about women in the biblical worlds and as “windows” to and “mirrors” of women’s reality in antiquity. Sourcebooks on women in the Greco-Roman world assemble in English translation literary documents as well as inscriptions and papyri about women’s religious activities in Greco-Roman antiquity. However, such source collections are in a certain sense precritical insofar as they obscure that androcentric texts are ideological constructions. They must be utilized with a hermeneutics of suspicion and placed within a feminist model of reconstruction.

Recognizing the absence or marginality of women in the androcentric text feminist historians have sought to articulate the problem of how to write women back into history, of how to capture the memory of women’s historical experience and contribution. The historian Joan Kelly has succinctly stated the dual goal of women’s history as both to restore women to history and to restore our history to women.

Feminist/womanist historical interpretation conceptualizes women’s historical agency, resistance, and struggles.  Women have made sociocultural contributions and challEnged dominant institutions and values as well as wielded destructive power and collaborated in patriarchal structure.

Feminist/womanist scholars in religion have begun to open up many new areas of research by asking different historical questions that seek to understand the socioreligious life-world of women in antiquity. What do we know about the everyday life of women in Israel, Syria, Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, or Rome? How did freeborn women, slave women, wealthy women, or businesswomen live? Could women read and write, what rights did they have, how did they dress, or which powers and influence did they gain through patronage? Or what did it mean for a woman of Corinth to join the Isis cult, the synagogue, or the Christian group? What did imprisonment mean for Junia, or how did Philippian women receive Luke-Acts?

Although many of these questions need still to be addressed and might never be answered, asking these questions has made it possible for instance to rediscover Sarah, the priestess, or to unearth the leadership of women in Judaism as well as in early Christianity, or to locate the household-code texts in Aristotelian political philosophy.  However, insofar as such sociohistorical studies do not problematize the descriptive character or the androcentric source text as reflecting sociohistorical reality, the cannot break through the marginalizing ideological tendencies of the androcentric text.

  1. Ideological Inscription and Reception. Whereas feminist historical interpretation tends to be caught up in the factual, objectivist, and antiquarian paradigm of biblical studies, literary-critical studies insist that we are not able to move beyond the androcentric text to the historical reality of women. They reject a positivist understanding of the biblical text as a transparent medium as reflecting historical reality or as providing historical data and facts.
  2. Their first hermeneutical strategy attends to the ideological inscriptions of androcentric dualisms or the politics of gender in cultural and religious texts. The relationship between androcentric text and historical reality cannot be construed as a mirror image but must be decoded as a complex ideological construction. The silences, contradictions, arguments, prescriptions, and projections of the androcentric text as well as its discourses on gender, race, class, or culture must be unraveled as the ideological inscription of the patriarchal politics of otherness.

Feminist literary studies-be they formalist, structuralist, or narratological-carefully show how the androcentric text constructs the politics of gender and feminine representation. By tracing out the binary structures of a text or by focusing on the “feminine” character constructs (e.g., mother, daughter, bride) of biblical narratives, structuralist and deconstructionalist readings run the risk of reinscribing rather than dislodging the dualistic gender politidcs of the text.

By laying out the androcentric bias of the text feminist literary criticism seeks to foster a hermeneutics of resistance to the androcentric politics of the canonical text. Such a feminist literary hermeneutics aims to deconstruct, debunk, and reject the biblbical text. However, by refusing any possibility of a positive retrieval they reinscribe the totalizing dynamics of the androcentric texts that marginalize women and other nonpersons or elminate them altogether from the historical record. Such a hermeneutics relinquishes the heritage of women be it cultural or religious, since not only the Bible but all cultural classics written in adrocentric language contain such an androcentric politics. A critical feminist reading can only break the mold of the sacred androcentric text and its authority over us when it resists the androcentric directives and hierarchially arranged binary opposisitions of the text, when it reads texts against “their androcentric grain.”

  1. A second strategy of feminist readings shifts the attention from the androcentric text to the reading subject. Feminist reader-reponse criticism makes conscious the complex process of reading androcentric texts as a cultural practice. By showing how our gender affects the way we read, it underlines the importance of the reader’s particular sociocultural location. Reading and thinking in an androcentric symbol system forces readers to identify with what is culturally “male.” This intensifies women’s internalization of a cultural partriarchal system whose misogynist values alienate women from themselves.

The androcentric biblical text derives its seductive “power” from its generic aspirations. For instance, women can read stories about Jesus without giving any significance to the maleness of Jesus. However, theological emphasis on the maleness of Jesus reinforces women’s male identification and establishes Christian identity as a male identity in a cultural masculine/feminine contextualization. Focusing on the figure of Jesus, the Son of the Father, when reading the Bible “doubles” women’s oppression. Women not only suffer in the act of reading from the alienating division of self against self but also from the realization that to be female is not to be “divine” or “a son of God.” Recognizing these internalizing functions of androcentric Scriptural texts which in the liturgy are proclaimed as “word of God,” feminist/womanist theologians have insisted on an inclusive translation of the lectionary.

Women’s reading of generic androcentric biblical texts, however, does not always lead with necessity to the reader’s masculine identification. Women’s reading can deactivate masculine/feminine gender contextualization in favor of an abstract degenderized reading. Empirical studies have documented that so-called generic masculine language [“man,” pronoun “he”] is read differently by men and by women. Whereas men connect male images with such language, women do not connect images with the androcentric text but read it in an abstract fashion. This is possible because of the ambiguity of generic masculine language. In the absence of any clear contextual markers a statement such as “all men are created equal” can be understood as generic-inclusive or as masculine-exclusive.

When women recognize their contradictory ideological position in a generic androcentric language system they can become readers resisting the master-identification of the androcentric, racist, classist, or colonialist text. However, if this contradiction is not brought into consciousness, it cannot be exploited for change but leads to further self-alienation. For change to take place, women and other nonpersons must concretely and explicitly claim as our very own the human values and visions that the androcentric text ascribes to “generic” man. Yet once readers have become conscious of the oppressive rhetorical functions of androcentric language, they no longer are able to read “generically” but must insist on a feminist/womanist contextualization of interpretation as a liberating practice in the struggle to end patriarchal relations of exploitation that generate “the languages of oppression” and are legitimated by it.

  1. A Critical Rhetorical Paradigm of Historical Reconstruction. A third approach seeks to overcome the methodological split between historical studies that understand their sources as windows to historical reality and literary-critical studies that tend to reinscribe the binary structures and dualistic constructions of the androcentric text. It does so by analyzing the rhetorical functions of the text as well as by articulating models for historical reconstruction that can displace the dualistic model of the androcentric text. It does not deny but recognizes that androcentric texts are produced in and by particular historical debates and struggles. It seeks to exploit the contradictions inscribed in the text for reconstructing not only the narrative “world of the biblical text” but also the sociohistorical worlds that have made possible the particular world construction of the text.
  2. Such a critical feminist reconstruction, therefore, does not heighten the opposition of masculine/feminine inscribed in the androcentric text but seeks to dislodge it by focusing on the text as a rhetorical-historical practice. Androcentric texts produce the marginality and absence of women from historical records by subsuming women under masculine terms. How we read the silences of such unmarked grammatically masculine generic texts and how we fill in their blank spaces depends on their contextualization in historical and present experience.

Grammatically masculine language mentions women specifically only as a special case, as the exception from the rule or as a problem. Whereas grammatically masculine language means both women and men, this is not the case for language referring to women. Moreover, the texts about women are not descriptive of women’s historical reality and agency but only indicators of it. They signify the presence of women that is marginalized by the androcentric text. An historically adequate reading of such generic androcentric texts therefore would have to read grammatically masculine biblical texts as inclusive of women and men, unless a case can be made for an exclusive reading.

By tracing the defensive strategies of the androcentric text one can make visible not only what the text marginalizes or excludes but also show how the text shapes what it includes. Androcentric biblical texts tell stories and construct social worlds and symbolic universes that mythologize, reverse, absolutize, and idealize patriarchal differences and in doing so obliterate or marginalize the historical presence of the devalued “others” of their communities.

Androcentric biblical texts and interpretations are not descriptive of objective reality but they are persuasive and prescriptive texts that construct historical reality and its sources. Scholars have selected original manuscript readings, established the original text, translated it into English, and commented on biblical writings in terms of their own androcentric-patriarchal knowledge of the world. Androcentric tendencies that marginalize women can also be detected in the biblical writers’ selection and redaction of traditional materials as well as in the selective canonization of texts. It is also evident in the use of the Bible in liturgy and theological discourse. As androcentric rhetorical texts, biblical texts and their interpretations construct a world in which those whose arguments they oppose become the “deviant others” or are no longer present at all. The categories of orthodoxy and heresy reinscribe such patriarchal rhetoric.

Biblical texts about women are like the tip of an iceberg indicating what is submerged in historical silence. They have to be read as touchstones of the reality that they repress and construct at the same time. Just as other texts so also are biblical texts sites of competing discourses and rhetorical constructions of the world. We are able to disclose and unravel “the politics of otherness” constructed by the androcentric text, because it is produced by a historical reality in which “the absent others” are present and active.

A feminist/womanist interpretation is able to unmask the politics of the text because women participate not only in the androcentric discourse of marginalization and subordination but also in the democratic discourse of freedom, self-determination, justice, and equality. Insofar as this “humanistic” discourse has been constituted as elite “male” discourse the reality to which it points is at the same time already realized and still utopian. It has to be imagined differently. Such “imagination” is, however, not pure fantasy but historical imagination because it refers to a reality that has been accomplished not only in discourse but also in the practices and struggles of “the subjugated others.”

  1. The second strategy elaborates models of historical reconstruction that can subvert the androcentric dynamics of the biblical text and its interpretations by focusing on the “reality” that the androcentric text marginalizes and silences. One has to take the texts about women out of their androcentric historical source contexts and reassemble them like mosaic stones in a feminist/womanist model of historical reconstruction that does not recuperate the marginalizing tendencies of the text.

A critical feminist reconstructive model, therefore, aims not only to reconstruct women’s history in early Christianity but seeks also a feminist reconstruction of early Christian origins. To that end, it cannot limit itself to the canonical texts but must utilize all available texts and materials.

Another strategy questions androcentric models of interpretation that interpret early Christian origins, e.g., in terms of the split between the public and private spheres. This model renders women’s witness to the resurrection and their leadership in the early Christian movements “unofficial” or distorts it to fit “feminine” cultural roles. Another strategy looks at economic and social status, at domestic and political structures, at legal prescriptions, cultic prohibitions, and religious organizations. However, reconstructions of the social world often uncritically adopt sociological or anthropological models of interpretation without testing them for their androcentric ideological implications.

The strategy of a “negative” mirror image which constructs early Christian women’s history in contrast to that of Jewish women or Greco-Roman and Asian women in the first century is not only biased but also methodologically inadequate. Instead, a feminist reconstruction must elaborate emancipatory tendencies in Greco-Roman antiquity that made it possible for the early Christian movements to stand in critical tension to their dominant patriarchal society. It must identify institutional formations that have enabled the active participation of women and other nonpersons.

Finally, a critical feminist/womanist reconstruction does not take the texts indicating the gradual adaptation of the early Christian movement to its dominant patriarchal culture as descriptive of historical reality. Rather it understands them as rhetorical arguments about the patriarchal “politics of submission.” They do not reflect “what really happened,” but construct prescriptive arguments for what the authors wished would happen. This applies not only to biblical texts but also to those “parallel” texts that are cited for the “depraved status” of Jewish or Greco-Roman women.

In short, in a critical model early Christian history is reconstructed not from the perspective of the “historical winners” but from that of the “silenced” in order to achieve a historically adequate description of the social worlds of early Christian women and men. The objectivity and reliability of scientific historical reconstructions must therefore be assessed in terms of whether and how much they can make present the historical losers and their arguments, how much they can make visible those who have been made “doubly invisible” in androcentric sources.

Feminist/womanist historiography, therefore, understands itself not as antiquarian science but as Engaged inquiry since it seeks to retrieve women’s history as memory and heritage for the present and the future. Insofar as reconstructions of the past are always done in the interest of the present and the future, a critical reconstruction of early Christian history as the history of those who have struggled against hegemonic patriarchal structures seeks to empower those who today Engage in the struggle to end patriarchy.

  1. Theological Hermeneutics

Both sides in the often bitter struggles for ecclesial leadership and full citizenship of freeborn women, for emancipation of slave women and men, and for the survival of poor women and their children have invoked biblical authority to legitimate their claims. Consequently, a feminist theological hermeneutics has centered around the question of Scriptural authority.

Several hermeneutical positions have crystallized in confrontation with biblical authority claims. The first rejects the Bible because of its patriarchal character. The Bible is not the word of God but that of elite men justifying their patriarchal interests. The opposite argument insists that the Bible must be “depatriarchalized” because, correctly understood, it fosters the liberation of women. A middle position concedes that the Bible is written by men and rooted in a patriarchal culture but nevertheless maintains that some biblical texts, traditions, or at least the basic core, essence, or central principle of the Bible are liberating and stand in critique of patriarchy.

  1. Biblical Apologetics. Historically and today the Bible has functioned as a weapon against women in their struggles for access to public speaking, to theological education, or to ordained ministry. In response, a Christian feminist apologetics asserts that the Bible, correctly understood, does not prohibit but rather authorizes the equal rights and liberation of women. A feminist hermeneutics, therefore, has the task to elaborate this correct understanding of the Bible so that its authority can be claimed.

However, insofar as historical-critical scholarship has elaborated the rich diversity and often contradictory character of biblical texts, it has shown that taken as a whole the canon cannot constitute an effective theological norm. Therefore it becomes difficult to sustain the traditional understanding that the canon forms a doctrinal unity which in all its parts possesses equal authority and which in principle rules out theological inconsistencies.

Feminists who feel bound by this understanding of canonical authority propose three different hermeneutical strategies. A loyalist hermeneutics argues that biblical texts about women can be explained in terms of a hierarchy of truth. Whereas traditionalists argue that the household code texts require the submission and subordination of women or that Gal 3:28 must be understood in light of them, evangelical feminists hold that Ephesians 5 requires mutual submission and that the injunctions to submission must be judged in light of the canonical authority of Gal 3:28.

A second strategy is revisionist. It makes a distinction between historically conditioned texts that speak only to their own time and those texts with authority for all times. For instance, the injunction of 1 Cor 11:2–16 to wear a head covering or a certain hairstyle is seen as time-conditioned whereas Gal 3:28 pronounces the equality of women and men for all times.

A third approach is compensatory. It challEnges the overwhelmingly androcentric language and images of the Bible by pointing to the feminine images of God found throughout the sacred writings of Judaism and Christianity. It uncritically embraces the divine female figure of Wisdom or the feminine character of the Holy Spirit in order to legitimate the use of feminine language for God and the Holy Spirit today.

  1. A Feminist Canon. Recognizing the pervasive androcentric character of biblical texts, other feminists isolate an authoritative essence or central principle that biblically authorizes equal rights and liberation struggles. Such a liberation hermeneutics does not aim to dislodge the authority of the Bible but to reclaim the empowering authority of Scripture over and against conservative, right-wing, biblical antifeminism.

A first strategy seeks to identify an authoritative canon within the canon, a central principle or the “gospel message.” Since it is generally recognized that the Bible is written in androcentric language and rooted in patriarchal cultures, such a normative center of Scripture allows one to claim biblical authority while rejecting the accusation that the Bible is an instrument of oppression. Feminist biblical and liberation theological scholarship has not invented but inherited this search for an authoritative “canon within the canon” from historical-theological exegesis that recognizes the historical contingency and contradictory pluriformity of Scripture but nevertheless maintains the normative unity of the Bible.

Just as male liberation theologians stress God’s liberating acts in history or single out the Exodus or Jesus’ salvific deeds as “canon within the canon,” so feminist liberation theologians have sought to identify God’s intention for a mended creation, the prophetic tradition or the prophetic critical principle as the authoritative biblical norm. However, such a strategy reduces the historical particularity and pluriformity of biblical texts to a feminist “canon within the canon” or a liberating formalized principle.

The debate continues in feminist hermeneutics as to whether such a feminist normative criterion must be derived from or at least correlated with the Bible so that Scripture remains the normative foundation of feminist biblical faith and community.

Some would argue that the Bible becomes authoritative in the hermeneutical dialogue between the ancient world that produced the text, the literary world of the text, and the world of the modern reader. Yet such a position rejects any criteria extrinisic to the biblical text for evaluating the diverse, often contradictory biblical voices. Instead it maintains that the Bible contains its own critique. It points, for instance, to the vision of a transformed creation in Isa 11:6–9 as a criterion intrinsic to Scripture. The principle of “no harm”—“they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain”—is the normative criterion for assessing biblical texts. However, this approach does not critically reflect that it is the interpreter who selects this criterion and thereby gives it normative canonical status.

A second strategy recognizes that a feminist critical norm is not articulated by the biblical text. However, it insists that a correlation can be established between the feminist critical norm and that by which the Bible critiques itself and renews its liberating vision over and against corrupting deformations. Such a feminist hermeneutics correlates, for instance, the feminist critical principle of the full humanity of women with the prophetic-messianic critical principle or dynamics by which the Bible critiques itself. However, such a hermeneutics of correlation reduces the particularity and diversity not only of biblical texts but also of feminist articulations to abstract formalized principle and norm. It neglects biblical interpretation as the site of competing discursive practices and struggles.

A third hermeneutical strategy argues that feminists must create as a new textual base a feminist Third Testament that canonizes women’s experiences of God’s presence. Out of their revelatory experiences of agony and victimization, survival, empowerment, and new life women write new canonical stories. Such a proposal recognizes women’s experiences of struggle and survival as places of divine presence. Just as the androcentric texts of the First and Second Testaments reflecting male experience, so also the stories rooted in women’s experience deserve canonical status. However, such a canonization of women’s stories rescribes cultural-theological male-female dualism as canonical dualism. Just like canonized male texts, so also are women’s texts embedded and structured by patriarchal culture and religion. Consequently, both must be subjected to a process of critical evaluation.

  1. Critical Process of Interpretation. A critical feminist hermeneutics of liberation, therefore, abandons the quest for a liberating canonical text and shifts its focus to a discussion of the process of biblical interpretation that can grapple with the oppressive as well as the liberating functions of particular biblical texts in women’s lives and struggles.

Such a critical process of feminist/womanist interpretation for liberation presupposes feminist conscientization and systemic analysis. Its interpretive process has four key moments. It begins with a hermeneutics of suspicion scrutinizing the presuppositions and interests of interpreters, and those of biblical commentators as well as the androcentric strategies of the biblical text itself. A hermeneutics of historical interpretation and reconstruction works not only in the interest of historical distanziation but also for an increase in historical imagination. It displaces the androcentric dynamic of the text and its contexts by recontextualizing the text in a sociopolitical model of reconstruction that can make the subordinated and marginalized “others” visible.

A hermeneutics of ethical and theological evaluation assesses the oppressive or liberatory tendencies inscribed in the text as well as the functions of the text in historical and contemporary situations. It insists for theological reasons that Christians stop preaching patriarchal texts as the “word of God,” and cease to proclaim the Christian God as legitimating patriarchal oppression. Finally, a hermeneutics of creative imagination and ritualization retells biblical stories and celebrates our biblical foresisters in a feminist/womanist key.

Since such a critical process of interpretation aims not just to understand biblical texts but to change biblical religion, it requires a theological reconception of the Bible as a formative root model rather than as a normative archetype of Christian faith and community. As a root model, the Bible informs but does not provide the articulation of criteria for a critical feminist/womanist evaluation of particular in the interest of liberation. Christian identity that is grounded in the Bible as its formative prototype must in ever new readings be deconstructed and reconstructed in terms of a global praxis for the liberation not only of women but of all other nonpersons.

Such a proposal does not abandon the canon as some critics have charged. It also cannot be characterized as extrinsic to the text, insofar as it works with the notion of inspiration. Inspiration is a much broader concept than canonical authority insofar as it is not restricted to the canon but holds that throughout the centuries the whole Church has been inspired and empowered by the Spirit. The NT writings did not become canonical because they were believed to be uniquely inspired; rather they were judged to be inspired because the Church gave them canonical status. Inspiration—the life-giving breath and power of Sophia-Spirit—has not ceased with canonization but is still at work today in the critical discernment of the spirits. It empowers women and others excluded from ecclesial authority to reclaim as Church their theological authority of biblical interpretation and spiritual validation.

The “canon within the canon” or the hermeneutics of correlation locates authority formally if not always materially in the Bible, thereby obscuring its own process of finding and selecting theological norms and visions either from the Bible, tradition, doctrine, or contemporary life. In contrast, a critical evaluative hermeneutics makes explicit that it takes its theological authority from the experience of God’s liberating presence in today’s struggles to end patriarchal relationships of domination. Such divine Presence manifests itself when people acknowledge the oppressive and dehumanizing power of the patriarchal interstructuring of sexism, racism, economic exploitation, and militarist colonialism and when Christians name these destructive systems theologically as structural “sin” and “heresy.” For this process of naming we will find many resources in the Bible but also in many other religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions.

Understanding the act of critical reading as a moment in the global praxis for liberation compels a critical feminist hermeneutics to decenter the authority of the androcentric text and to take control of its own readings. It deconstructs the politics of otherness inscribed in the text and our own readings in order to retrieve biblical visions of salvation and well-being in the interest of the present and the future.


Achtemeier, P., ed. 1988. The Bible, Theology and Feminist Approaches. Int 42/1: 3–72.

Bal, M. 1987. Lethal Love. Feminist Literary Readings of Biblical Love Stories. Bloomington, IN.

Brooten, B. 1982. Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue. Chico, CA.

Camp, C. V. 1987. Female Voice, Written Word: Women and Authority in Hebrew Scripture. Pp. 97–113 in Embodied Love, eds., Cooey, P. M.; Farmer, S. A.; and Ross, M. E. San Francisco.

Cannon, K. G., and Schüssler Fiorenza, E. 1989. Interpretation for Liberation. Semeia 47. Atlanta.

Chopp, R. S. 1989. The Power to Speak. Feminism, Language, God. New York.

Fewell, N. 1987. Feminist Reading of the Hebrew Bible: Affirmation, Resistance and Transformation. JSOT 39: 77–87.

Fuchs, E. 1989. Marginalization, Antiquity, Silencing: The Story of Jephthah’s Daughter. JFSR 5/1: 35–46.

Hackett, J. A. 1987. Women’s Studies and the Hebrew Bible. Pp. 141–64 in The Future of Biblical Studies: The Hebrew Scriptures, eds. R. E. Friedman and H. G. M. Williamson. Atlanta.

King, K. L., ed. 1988. Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism. In Studies in Antiquity and Christianity. Philadelphia.

Kraemer, R., ed. 1988. Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics. A Sourcebook on Women’s Religion in the Greco-Roman World. Philadelphia.

———. 1983. Women in the Religions of the Greco-Roman World. RSR 9: 127–39.

Milne, P. J. 1989. The Patriarchal Stamp of Scripture. JFSR 5/1: 17–34.

Mollenkott, V. R. 1983. The Divine Feminine. The Biblical Imagery of God as Female. New York.

Moltmann-Wendel, E. 1983. The Women Around Jesus. New York.

Myers, C. 1988. Discovering Eve. New York.

Pagels, E. 1988. Adam, Eve and the Serpent. New York.

Plaskow, J. 1989. Standing Again at Sinai. Rethinking Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. San Francisco.

Procter-Smith, M. 1989. In Her Own Rites. Nashville.

Ringe, S. 1987. Standing Toward the Text. TToday 43: 552–57.

Russell, L. M., ed. 1985. Feminist Interpretation of the Bible. Philadelphia.

———. 1976. The Liberating Word. A Guide to Nonsexual Interpretation of the Bible. Philadelphia.

Schaberg, J. 1989a. Biblical Interpretation and Critical Commitment. StTh 43: 5–18.

———. 1989b. Text and Reality. Reality as Text: The Problem of a Feminist Historical and Social Reconstruction Based on Texts. StTh 40: 19–34.

———. 1987. Theological Criteria and Hermeneutical Reconstruction: Martha and Mary (Lk 10:38–42). Protocol 53. Berkeley.

Schüssler Fiorenza, E. 1985. Bread Not Stone. The ChallEnge of Feminist Biblical Interpretation. Boston.

———. 1983. In Memory of Her. A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins. New York.

Stanton, E. Cady. 1974. The Woman’s Bible. Repr. Seattle.

Tamez, E. 1988. Women’s Rereading of Her Bible. Pp. 173–80 in With Passion and Compassion: Third World Women Doing Theology, eds. V. Fabella and M. Oduyoye. Maryknoll, NY.

Tolbert, M. A., ed. 1983. The Bible and Feminist Hermeneutics. Semeia 28. Atlanta.

Trible, P. 1984. Texts of Terror. Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives. Philadelphia.

Trible, P., ed. 1982. The Effects of Women’s Studies on Biblical Studies. JSOT 22: 3–72.

———. 1978. God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality. Philadelphia.

———. 1984. Black Women in Antiquity. New Brunswick, NJ.

Weems, R. 1988. Just a Sister Away. San Diego.

Wegner, J. R. 1980. Chattel or Person. The Status of Women in the Mishnah. New York.

Yarbro Collins, A., ed. 1985. Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Scholarship. Atlanta.





The Pagan Religions of Ancient Greece and Rome

Cultic prostitution, as opposed to commercial prostitution, by its very name infers a ritual act that is dedicatory and sexual in essence as a sacred offering to a goddess within a sacred precinct. This could be enacted symbolically: ‘intercourse with the deity is conducted through gifts. Votive offerings of all kinds.’

The bond between man and the sacred is consummated in the continuous exchange of gift for gift. It may be replaced by an image (Burkett p 35.) For Aphrodite, the sanctuary at Paphos on Cyprus has always been regarded as the centre and origin of her cult. The use of frankincense, which was always known in Greek by its Semitic name has a special association with Aphrodite(Burkett p 52). Aphrodite, Venus, has strong eastern connections and J.B. Salmon claims that this aspect of the cult reached Corinth from the east, perhaps immediately from Cyprus. The date of its arrival remains uncertain.

Strabo of Roman origin writing in the 1st century CE, claimed that ‘the temple of Aphrodite owned more than a thousand temple slaves, courtesans’ in Aphrodite’s service, ‘whom both men and women had dedicated to the goddess’[1]. Ritual and myth are the two forms in which Greek religion presents itself to the historian of religion[1]. A number of features which link Greek religion with Neolithic and early Helladic religion: … masks (Burkett p 15)

The history of religion cannot disregard the fact that it was precisely during the dark age, the time of confusion and debilitation, that the gates to an Oriental influence were opened (Burkett p. 52).

In Greece, W.W. Sanger claims the prostitutes were an aristocracy, ‘exercising a palpable influence over the national policy and social life and mingling conspicuously in the great march of the Greek intellect’[1]. ‘No less than eleven reputable authors have recorded the history of courtesans at Athens[2]. The prostitutes lived under the sanction of law and religion. Solon, for example, by law, formerly established houses of prostitution in Athens. The famous Statesman and Lawgiver filled these brothels with female slaves, supplying a legitimate source of revenue for the state[3].

Festivals were held to honour Venus in temples that were erected to honour the eastern goddess of love: the deity prostitutes paid homage to. The flute players, auletrides, held a festival, originally established in Corinth in honour of Venus Peribasia; all the great flute players from all over Greece assembled to this festival to celebrate their calling. Amongst them was the famous Lamia, who was the delight of not only Alexandria and King Ptolemy but also Demetrius of Macedon, ‘who levied a tax of some $250, 000 on the city of Athens as a gift to her’ [4].

Other festivals such as these were also established by rich men in honour of Venus and were held all over Greece. One festival, organised by Solon, was held at the temple of Venus Pandemos. Solon erected the temple and invited all the men of Athens to attend on the fourth of each month. Twenty temples were erected in various cities of Greece to Venus the Courtesian. Another was called Venus Mucheia, or the Venus of the houses of ill fame; yet another, Venus Castnia, or the goddess of indecency. All of these Venus’s mentioned and many other temples in her name, besides, had sacrifices and priestesses; their devotees were every man in Greece[5].

Greece claims many famous hetairai. Statues were erected to signify the beauty and prestige of some of the more famous[6]. Although confined within male representations, nevertheless, in order to survive in such an oppressive environment to women in general, these foreign women’s lives show ingenuity and subversive elements employed by them.  On the other hand, it could be said that their intellect, beauty, and ingenuity was applauded to bolster the Greek male’s own image. There is no way of telling.

Aspasia is such a woman. A madam who ‘carried on a trade that was anything but honourable and respectable, since it consisted of keeping a house of young courtesans … Aspasia ‘won over all the leading citizens’ of Athens, and ‘provided the philosophers with a theme for prolonged and elevated discussions’[7]. Pericles who ‘made her [Athens] the greatest and richest of all cities, and he came to hold more power in his hands than many a king and tyrant’[8], was attracted to Aspasia. The reason given for the attraction was because of her wisdom and political awareness. For all that, Pericles, seemingly, was not like any other rich Greek man of his time who kept hetaireia, ‘he loved her to an unusual degree’[9].

The existence of the material recording their lives, and the androcentricity of the male narrative, assumes a repressive and buried part of their life’s story. One famous woman, Naera, for example, whose career originated in Corinth, was sold originally for half a talent[10]. Their way of life, however, it may appear through the lenses of phallo-centricity would have been the source of much pain and humiliation for the women. ‘First of all, they care about making money and robbing their neighbours. Everything else has second priority’[11].

In Aspasia’s case, the chaste women of Athens rose against her, and after being publicly insulted, attacked her in the street. Aspasia was also accused of impiety before the Areopagus[12]. The Creatines, a comedian of the time, ‘bluntly called her a prostitute in these lines: the goddess of vice produced that shameless bitch, Aspasia[13]. In spite of this, the heights the hetarai managed to reach in Athenian society goes a long way in showing how much greater Greece might have become had all women been emancipated to the degree that the Greek citizen male was.

For example, Aspasia continued to lecture on philosophy until the day of her death[14]. Her successor, Hipparchia, was one of the most voluminous and esteemed authors of her day. Another, Pythionice, was sent all the way to the governor of Babylon, Harpalus, and was installed in the palace following Alexander’s conquest of Babylon[15]. Pythionice ‘began top rule over the province, [and] governed Harpalus, it is said, with sternness and vigour’ until her untimely death, possibly poisoned by a rival[16].

Much more might be said about famous Corinthian prostitutes such as Lais and Phryne[17]. It is said that 1,000 young slaves worked at a temple to Venus, charging only one obulus [a cent][18] (see also p. 58 Sanger) Corinth was the largest emporium of commerce in Greece[19]. The city had a reputation for licentiousness[20]Regular schools were conducted in Corinth, which were held for young women to learn the prostitute’s trade[21]. It is said that 1,000 young slaves worked at a temple to Venus, charging only one obulus [a cent][22] (see also p. 58 Sanger) Xenophon had vowed a hundred sacred prostitutes to Aphrodite, ‘Queen of Cyprus, here to your sanctuary Xenophon has brought a herd of a hundred grazing girls’[23], if he was successful at winning the stadion and the pentathlon at Olympia[24].

Aphrodite, Venus, has strong eastern connections and J.B. Salmon claims that this aspect of the cult reached Corinth from the east, perhaps immediately from Cyprus. The date of its arrival remains uncertain. Strabo claimed that ‘the temple of Aphrodite owned more than a thousand temple slaves, courtesans’ in Aphrodite’s service, ‘whom both men and women had dedicated to the goddess’[25]. Ritual and myth are the two forms in which Greek religion presents itself to the historian of religion[26]. A number of features which link Greek religion with Neolithic and early Helladic religion: … masks (Burkett p 15) ‘There is no single origin of Greek religion (Burkett p 19)

A seal from Knossos shows a goddess standing between two lions on the peak of a mountain: an iconographical tradition which comes from the East: there the Mistresses of the Mountain, the Sumerian Ninhursag, was well known very much earlier (Burkett p. 28).

‘Women unquestionably held office in a wide range of pagan religions across the ancient world chronologically, geographically and culturally[27]. However, there is scant evidence available for the practice of cult prostitution as described by Strabo. The ultimate function ‘the affirmation of the social order as it exists’ is the goal of the male historian (Kramer p 34). Greek religion served to reinforce traditional roles of women’ (p 24, Kramer)

“but the most illustrious men of the tribe actually consecrate to her their daughters while maidens; and it is the custom for these to be prostituted in the temple of the goddess for a long time and after this to be given in marriage; and no one disdains to live in wedlock with such a woman” [28]

Venus came from the East. Gerda Lerner, quoting from various distinguished dictionaries[29]explains what these determine is the difference between the two, ‘In Mesopotamian society (and elsewhere) sacred prostitution, which characterised ancient fertility cults and goddess worship, led to commercial prostitution’[30]. Lerner prefers to make a difference by separating cultic from prostitution and instead rather, calls it ‘cultic sexual service’[31].

Her acceptance of cultic sexual service based upon the arche-official evidence of the existence of female figurines, abundant all over Europe, the Mediterranean, and Eastern Asia. Many of these figures have been found in shrines connected with the worship of female goddesses. There is no way of knowing, however, what the purpose was of these figurines.

There is abundant documented evidence of the lives and activities of priestesses in Ancient Mesopotamia and neo-Babylonian period and the temple staff caring for and feeding the deity. ’Thus a separate class of temple prostitutes developed’. Later, commercial prostitution flourished near the temple[32].

These women who represented the goddess came from the upper levels of society. Often, as in the case of the daughters of the line of kings such as the city of Mari, located far to the north of Sumer in what today is the Iraq-Syrian border (1790-1745 B.C.). Then, kings’ daughters carried out important religious functions amongst other religious, economic and political activities. A sacred marriage, a mythical union took place once a year.

This marriage was performed annually in the temples of the fertility goddesses for nearly two thousand years. It was ‘a public celebration considered essential to the well being of the community’[33] and was in relation to fertility rites commiserate to an agrarian society. The community honoured the priestess and her shepherd/king for having performed this ‘sacred’ service. Temple staff sexually serviced the gods and goddesses.

Evidence of a similar sacred marriage ritual has been discovered in the three-day Anthesteria, festival, referred to in Athens as the older Dionysia, in contrast to the great Dionysia, and associated by the Greeks with the blossoming of Spring (Burkett p. 237). On the day of the Wine Jugs the drinking of the new wine turns into a contest. The association of red wine with blood is widespread and very ancient. (p 238).

Here the wine is associated with the murder of Dionysus and his blood served as sacrificial wine (p 238). Finally a ‘queen’ the wife of the archon basilius. Is given as wife to the god himself. ‘Nowhere else does Greek literature speak so clearly of a sacred marriage ritual How the ‘marriage’ was actually consummated is a question which remains unanswered (p 239 Burkett). The marriage takes place at night; the Choes revellers stand with torches around the couch of Dioysis and Ariadne (p 240) A mask Dionysus is represented by a mask. The mask is fastened to a column. Neara, mentioned above, enacted this role ‘she was given to Dionysus as wife, she conducted for the city the ancestral practices towards the gods, many sacred, secret practices (Demosth). Or. 59.73 in Burkett p 239).

In the Gilgamesh Epic. (around 2600 b.c.) a masterpiece of ANE literature, composed in Akkadian features a harlot harimtu is mentioned[34]. Her role is honorable; sexuality is civilizing; this is her task. The Code of Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.) regulates the Naditum, a class of cultic servant women who were required to live respectable lives and serve in the temple of the god Marduk.

However, Lerner explains that confusion arose amongst modern scholars, such as Vern L. Bullogh[35] by referring to all of this activity as prostitution and ‘by using the term “hierodule”without distinguishing the various types of women engaging in cultic or commercial sexual activity. Lerner notes that there is also a difference between women practicing prostitution of their own free will for commercial ends and women and debt slaves sold by parents or husbands. ‘legal texts show in the Ancient near East that ‘prostitution was a recognised and established institution. ‘Though not a very honourable profession, no disgrace was attached to the person practicing it. The professional prostitute was a free-born independent woman and the law protected her economic position[36]

The book of Leviticus warns the Israelites, ‘do not prostitute your daughter’[37]. The Israelites were forbidden to bring into the sanctuary, the ‘hire of a whore’ for any vow [38]. ‘It has long been assumed that the terms qades/qedesa allude to the practice of cultic prostitution in Israel, yet recent studies seriously question this widespread assumption’[39].

‘It is possible that mysteries arose from puberty initiations’ (Burkett p 277) Yet Greek mysteries only exist in the true sense if and as far as initiation is open to both sexes and also to non-citizens. Second, there is the agrarian aspect The wine festival was not a mystery. (p 277 Burkett).a third and undeniable aspect were the sexual aspect: genital symbols exposures and occasionally veritable orgies, in the commons sense are attested. Puberty initiation, agrarian magic and sexuality may unite in the experience of life overcoming death. Finally there is the aspect of myth…. secret tales hieroi logoi, mostly telling of suffering gods. The mystai in turn do suffer something in the initiation. The certainty of life attained by intoxication and sexual arousal goes together with insight into the cycle of nature. (p 277). A Neolithic basis, the Ancient Anatolian Mother, for the mysteries may be assumed (p 278) In the process of the Elysian mysteries, we do not know the true course of events, and Burke asks the question, ‘was there a sacred marriage of hierophant and priestess? (p 288).

Sexual activities in and around the Babylonian temples, is reported by Herodotus, (5thCentury B.C.) in the temple of the goddess Mylitta[40]. The other was written by the Roman geographer Strabo some four hundred years later, confirming Herodotus. He mentions a law that has to be fulfilled ‘Such of the women … who are ugly have to stay a long time before they can fulfil the law. Some have waited three or four years in the precinct’[41]. Lerner says there are no known ’laws’ regulating or even referring to this practice[42]. In another place, Herodotus reports a story told to him by Babylonian priests, where the high priestess dwelt in a room with a couch, in which the God nightly visited her. Whether actually carried out or symbolically re-enacted there is no way of knowing[43].





[1] W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897, p. 62. ‘

[2] ‘Their works have not reached us entire … but enough remains in the quotations of Athenaeus, Alciphron’s Letters, Lucian, Diogenes Laaertius, Aristophanes, Aristaenetus, and others’ [2] W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897, p. 62.

[3] W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897, p. 43.

[4] Plutarch, Life of Demetrius, 16, 19, 24-27; in W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, eugenics publishing, p. 53. This amount was estimated by Sanger in 1897, when the work was originally published.

[5] cW.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897, p. 54.

[6] W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897, p. 59.

[7] Plutarch on Pericles, The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives, Penguin, Victoria, p. 190.

[8]cPlutarch on Pericles, The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives, Penguin, Victoria, 1960, p. 183.

[9] Plutarch, Perikles 24.2-9, in Mathew Dillon and Linda garland, Ancient Greece, Social and historical documernts from Archaic times to the death of Socrates(c.800-399 B.C., (2nd ed.) Routledge, London, 2000, pp. 399-400.

[10] J. B. Salmon, Wealthy Corinth: A history of the city to 338 B.C., Clarendale Press. Oxford, 1984, p. 400.

[11] Alexis, Fr. 18 Pickard- Cambridge, in Mary R. Lefkowitz & Maureen B. Fant, Women’s Life in Greece and Rome, 1982, p. 27.

[12] W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897,p. 56.

[13] Plutarch on Pericles, The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine Greek Lives, Penguin, Victoria, 1960, p. 191.

[14] Plutarch, Life of Pericles, 24

[15] W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897, p. 60.

[16] W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897, p. 60.

[17] W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897, p. 58-59

[18] Strabo

[19] W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897, p. 58-.

[20] J. B. Salmon, Wealthy Corinth: A history of the city to 338 B.C., Clarendale Press. Oxford, 1984, p. 398.

[21] W.W. Sanger, History of Prostitution, 1897, Eugenics publishing, 1897, p. 58-.

[22] Strabo

[23] Pindar Fr. 107 Bowra, in J. B. Salmon, Wealthy Corinth: A history of the city to 338 B.C., Clarendale Press. Oxford, 1984, p. 398. cJ. B. Salmon, Wealthy Corinth: A history of the city to 338 B.C., Clarendale Press. Oxford, 1984, p. 398.

[24] J. B. Salmon, Wealthy Corinth: A history of the city to 338 B.C., Clarendale Press. Oxford, 1984, p. 398.


[26]Walter Burkett, Greek religion: Archaic and Classical, transl. John Raffan, Basil Blackwell, 1985, p. 8.

[27] Kramer, Her Share of the Blessings, p. 80.

[28] Strabo Geography, 11.14.16..

[29] New Ecyclopedia Britannia, vol. 25, p. 76; Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 22. pp. 672-74; Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, vol. 13 (New York, 1934), p. 553 etc.

[30] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1986, p125.

[31][31] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1986, p125.

[32] Lerner, pp. 69, 125.

[33] Lerner p. 126.

[34]Gigamesh Epic, Freedman, David Noel, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, (New York: Doubleday) 1997, 1992.

[35] Vern L. Bullogh, Attitudes Toward Deviant Sex in Ancient Mesopotamia in Vern L. Bullogh, Sex, Socie\ety and History (New York, 1976), pp. 17-36, makes the same observation (pp. 22023).

[36] Isaac Mendelsohn Slavery in the ANE in Lerner Patriarchy f/n 31 p. 129.

[37] Leviticus 19:29.

[38]Deut. 23:17-18. The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

[39] Anchor Bible Dictionary ‘Prostitution’

[40] Herodotus, Histories

[41] Herodotus

[42] Lerner p. 129.

[43] Lerner p. 129-30.

What Kind of Activity Led to the Foundation of Christianity?

  1. What kind of activity led to the foundation of Christianity?

This essay will show how a number of crucial changes such as the radical shift in the development of Judaism, the surrounding Hellinistic culture and the turbulent political climate all gave impetus to the emerging of Christianity.

It was a time of renewal and reform for the exiled Jews when, in 538 BCE, after 500 years of exile in Babylon, Cyrus of Persia came to power and released the Jews to return to Palestine and the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple.  However, “those who go into exile are not the ones who return” (Jacob Neusner, p 51, in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes).  A shift had taken place in the development of the Jews and transformation was inevitable (p 51).

This significant event precipitated a “resurgence of Judaic religion and national identity” with prophets by the early 400s BCE recalling the people to return to the traditional lifestyle (p 51). For those of the Diaspora, distance separated them from Jerusalem and the temple and “the age of “emergent (Pharisaic) Judaism” ensued (p 51

For well over the next two hundred years the Jews religion developed and evolved as they adapted to the Hellenising influence of Greek culture and thought until, in 63 BCE, Rome conquered Greece.  This new political change brought with it severe persecution for the Jews erupting in violence and some revolts, reviving in them a message of messianic hope.

Within this new melting pot of “sociopolitical forces feeding off one another and influencing each other” (p 37) a new movement erupted. )  Its founder, Jesus of Nazareth, the “agent of intentional change” (Robert E. Goodin p 78, in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes ) recognized as a prophet by his followers, intervened, calling on the professional and priest to “fulfil, reform, and remake“ that which was already there (p 23 Pratt in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes).  Not willing to accept the “revised vision” and “move to a new tradition of a relationship with the deity”, Yahweh, they killed its founder (p 81).

Following Jesus’ death the “crisis of continuance” (Pratt p 23 in UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112 Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes) was met by new leaders being selected and the three fold “interrelated phenomena of belief, event, and activity” carried the movement forward.  The gathered community shared the “belief” in the resurrection of the dead.  The “event” of ‘Pentecost’ as recorded in the Book of Acts falls into the category where those gathered received “spiritual empowerment”.  The “activity-phenomena”, saw acts of healing, teaching and preaching (Pratt p 60).

In sum, Rabbinical Judaism was in a process of change for over five hundred years.  Centripetal forces caused by culture and political change brought to bear pressures from without.  Centrifugal forces from within Judaism came from changes in the fundamentals of their religion.  All of these opened up a breach, thus making way for the new movement, Christianity, to emerge.


UNE Studies in Religion, RELS 112.  Introduction to World Religions B, Study Guide and Unit Notes, 2002, The University of New England, Armidale, NSW.


Philosophy, Anthropology, Psychology: Useful in the Study of Religion

“The brute facts of our existence do bring us face to face with questions about which our normal practical techniques and scientific know-how are powerless to provide answers or solutions”

This essay will identify the key focus of the following disciplines in general and then with regard to the study of religion, and discuss the usefulness of such a focus: Philosophy, anthropology, psychology.

The key focus of the three sciences, philosophy, anthropology, and psychology, in general, is to gain a better understanding of what it means to be human, individually and collectively.  Two of these, Philosophy and Anthropology, in contrast to Psychology, converge under the general heading of social sciences, whereas, Psychology’s practitioners are massed together under one roof (Topic 7:73, Sociology, Anthropology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion). All three concentrate their attention on different facets of these sciences to help interpret religion.

It is at this point of divergence between the three that their individual usefulness in their different major concepts and approaches to religion can be discovered.  In the conjoint discussions of philosophy and religion, for example ‘issues of truth claims’ and ‘reason’, surface.  A philosophical question such as ‘what are the basic assumptions that underlie some leader of a religious movement’s assertions of truth’, might be discussed as the starting point of a philosophical discussion. (Alison Manion in Topic 4:45-6, Philosophy and Religion, Approachesto the Study of Religion).  Other questions that might be asked in relation to such avowals to truthare ‘what concepts and ideas-structure do such assertions offer, as opposed to what they actually believe or assert about themselves as true”.  Questions such as these show philosophy not so much as attempting to solve the questions that arise from the matters under investigation as to dealing with the issues underlying all knowledge and reality in the interest of gaining understanding.  In so doing foundations and presuppositions are exposed and the process of reasoning comes into play.

In its quest to gain understanding, modern philosophy may be divided into two branches, critical or analytical and continental, sometimes called dialectical.  Analytic philosophy will be considered here.  This branch of philosophy has largely been based on Christianity due to the cultural background surrounding it.  The usefulness of a non-theistic and fairly abstract focus remains broad enough to cover issues that arise from many religions.  In keeping with this broad approach is a typical definition of deity.  ‘God’ is explained as ‘a being who created us, loves us, knows all, is all-powerful and with whom we can have a personal relationship’ (Topic 4:46, Philosophy and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).  The usefulness of having a philosophical approach may help people question their basic religious beliefs and gain a broader understanding of them.  Alternatively, it could also assist people who do not believe in a deity and prefer a more philosophical approach to life.

Unlike philosophy, anthropology’s main points of interest are on particular societies and cultural phenomena, especially non-western, non-industrial societies.  Sociology’s approach, on the other hand, although it is interchangeable with anthropology, is more general and abstract in its major concepts and approaches in its way of looking at the experiences of human societies and social change.  The breadth of sociology-anthropology has two major areas.  The first is physical anthropology with questions of human origins and physiological links between human and earlier hominids.  The other, cultural anthropology is the study of all facets of culture and deals with social organization, folklore, and beliefs (Topic 7:73-4, Sociology, Anthropology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).

Where anthropology couples together with religion, its diversity can be seen in all four of cultural anthropology’s sub disciplines:

1) Ethnology, to do with human custom

2) Social Anthropology, dealing with social customs

3) Ethnography, the detailed description of individual cultures, normally by means of participant observation, and

4) Structural Anthropology, involving linguistic and literary analysis (Topic 7:73-4, Sociology, Anthropology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).

Anthropology is useful in helping humanity understand, define and legitimate their society, and themselves as individuals, as well as their identity and place in it.  The theories of modern sociology’s two founders, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, serve to help people understand better and even discover their place in society.  Overall, these two appear to follow opposing ideas about the role of religion in society.

The usefulness of the sociology of religion can be seen in helping an individual, a small community, and a nation collectively, to gain an understanding of their particular society and customs through a study of their religious history leading up to the present time.  Cultural anthropology has four sub-disciplines, Ethnology, Social Anthropology, Ethnography, and Structural Anthropology (Topic 7:74, Sociology, Anthropology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).

One of the modern founders of Cultuaral Anthropology, Emile Durkheim (1915) in his ‘Elementary Forms of the Religious Life’ debunked the experiences and feelings of individuals.  His theory was that society collectively sought to belong, to be ethical, to serve society, to sacrifice, to answer to the need to surrender and worship.  Durkheim said, “Religion is the sacred power that legitimates the existing order” (Topic 7:77, Sociology, Anthropology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).  Feminists would agree with this theory that ‘religion … legitimates the existing order’. ‘On the simplest level, feminist criticism of religious traditions understands religion, or perhaps the constructions of religion in various social contexts, as one of the players in the oppression of women’ (Topic 10:103, Feminist Criticism, Approaches to the Study of Religion).

Unlike Durkheim, Max Weber (1963) in The Sociology of Religion, focused on the individual.  He saw the individual and in particular, the charismatic leader acting as a prophet, initiating new trends, “that favor criticism, change, and greater personal commitment”, by gathering small groups of people, bringing about change and breakthroughs, and new forms of religion.  He understood “the substance of religion as building sacred communities” “creating order and stability” and “personal commitment” and choice (Topic 7:78 Sociology, Anthropology, and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).  Weber would fit more in today’s western society then Durkheim, however, both views exist in any society, allowing for checks and balances in it that nurture the individual as well as the community as a whole.  Overall these two diverse ways of thinking mirror the complex cultural pluralism people encounter in the modern world and both would prove to be advantageous in helping people to discover their identity and place.

Psychology, like anthropology, also belongs to the social sciences.  It involves discovering and analyzing the experience of the individual, helping them to discover their identity.  The focus of psychology is another way in which the study of religion might be approached.  The study of psychology and religion is divided into four main groups.  1) Debunking religion, 2) legitimation of religion 3) legitimation of one kind of religion over another, 4) the appropriation of psychology by religionists for internal religionists ends (Topic 6:59, Psychology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).

Psychology in its numerous forms employs a variety of applications to religion allowing the individual to 1) examine self, as well as, 2) identify the various stages of growth that 3), leads to maturity.  These three main categories of psychology where applied to religion reveal the diversity and variety found in it.  These, together with the variances found in religion, would prove to be advantageous to the individual seeking to clarify their own belief system, its function, and whether they have matured and broadened their belief system enough to be beneficial to their everyday life, future growth, and development.

One of the disadvantages of psychology might be for the inquirer lighting upon the ‘wrong’ field.  For example, Freud (1907) claimed the best way to explain religion is through theories of psychoanalysis (p 62).  However, a psychologist trained in Freudian methods would claim that religion is both an illusion (p 63), and a neurosis (p 62).  According to Freud’s theory ‘maturity will see it pass away’, and ‘in order for the individual to be cured the neurosis has to be removed’ (Topic 6:62, Psychology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion). Freudian focus is to debunk religion (Topic 6:59, Psychology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).  Therefore, Freud’s view may not necessarily be beneficial for religious fundamentalists, for example, who value their religious beliefs and are ‘trying to conserve a particular religious heritage’ (Topic 9:95, Political Criticism Approaches to the Study of Religion).

Carl Jung (1875-1961) on the other hand, describing himself as a phenomenologist, considers only that which is there on the surface; that the focus is the individual person and that person’s psyche, and identifying archetypes in the person’s dreams, say, as opposed to the ‘depth model’ developed by Freud.  Jung’s model requires the practitioner to investigate what is beneath the surface of a person’s life.  He claims that ‘primordial images’ can be seen to recur throughout human history’ (Topic 6:64-6, Psychology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).

These images, in turn, appear to synthesize with Durkheim’s argument.  Durkheim believes that ‘every stable nation and society has a ‘myth’, a set of ideas, symbols, and stories, that define and legitimate society’ (Topic 7:75, Sociology, Anthropology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).  However here the similarity ends, in that Durkheim insisted that ‘religion is never found away from a group or a collectivity’ (p 75).  Jung however, does not mean by the ‘collective unconscious’ that they are a ‘collective inheritance of images and myths that are a joint possession of the human race’.  Rather, they are ‘inherited tendency’ and ‘instinctive’, such as bird’s nest-building and without ‘known origin’ (Topic 6:66, Psychology and Religion, Approaches to the Study of Religion).

In sum, all three disciplines philosophy, anthropology, psychology, with regard to the study of religion, can show their usefulness in helping individuals as well as collectively, to gain an understanding of what it means to be human, by helping people to formulate their own religious or philosophical position more clearly.




























Approaches to the Study of Religion, Studies in Religion, RELS 304, Study Guide and Unit Notes, The University of New England, Armidale.

The Ancient Greeks and Their Gods

 ‘To the Greeks the gods were distant, aloof, and uninterested in human affairs’.  Discuss

In this dissertation I will debate that some seemingly unbridgeable gulfs existed between the blessed gods and puny mortals.  Yet, to the Greeks, the gods were not distant, aloof, and uninterested in human affairs’, but were present, and through the Greek’s day to day observing religious conciliatory rituals, they competed to win the god’s favor.

A thousand year cultural phenomenon, Greek religion evolved over the first millennium.  It consisted of a potpourri of sacred practices, beliefs, and obligations, ‘a system of explanation and response’ with ‘uncanny coincidences’ the sign of divine activity. [1].  The two clusters of gods, theoi, the Greeks ‘acknowledged’, theous nomizein, occupied two different spheres.  The Olympians were known as sky gods, the cathonic deities dwelled underground.

Two great gulfs separated the mortals from their gods.  Demarcating the sphere of the religious, the sacred, hieros, was bridged by creating ‘sacred space’ hieron, and surrounding it with prohibitions, separating it from the profane, bebelos.  ‘For the Greeks any location might serve as a place of cult’. [2]

The other great gulf was the nature of the gods themselves, considered by the Greeks to be divine.  This was overcome by ritual: prayer and blood sacrifice in particular.  ‘Bloody animal sacrifice of alimentary type’ offered by priests acting as ‘mediators between the city and its gods’. [3] gave recognition of a ‘sacrificial community’; of ‘expression to the bonds that tied the citizens one to another and served as a privileged means of communication with the divine world’. [4].

Meeting with the gods meant responsibility on the part of mortals, and ‘ritual transgression meant that the many could suffer from the mistakes of the few’ [5].  Therefore the Greeks sought ways to ‘find the good pleasure of the gods’ to make them cheerful, for the anger of the gods is dangerous.  The gods had the power to inflict eternal punishment.  They were not to be offended by stupidity, neglect or ‘acts of impiety’: disrespect for the gods. [6].  A polytheistic religion, it offered them ‘a framework of explanation and a system of responses to all that was wayward’. [7].

To counteract excesses, there was an unwritten code of honour and shame.  Hybris kept the Greeks in check of Nemesis or Envy: do not be negligent, ‘do not seek to become a god’, and ‘honour the gods’, gera, and honour one’s parents.  It was ‘a real danger when a man tries to place himself above the gods, even though only in words’. [8].

Unlike other religions, theirs recognised no prophet or lawgiver, no special class of priesthood in the traditional sense.  However, priests and priestesses ‘as vicars mediating between the city and the gods’ were respected personages, and recognised as such. [9].  There were also ‘sacred laws’. They were ‘inscribed on stone or bronze pillars and displayed at the entrance of temples and in other public places’. [10].

The Greeks were united in their religion, ‘and we have the temples of our gods in common and our sacrifices’. [11].  Originally spirits that inhabited the entire cosmos, the Olympian family, made up of twelve members, originally came about by two authors.  One of them, Hesiod, in his Theogany, tells of the origin of the universe and the descent of the gods, “borrowing heavily on the myths of western Asia and Mesopotamia. [12].  However, it was Homer, who wrote in the 8thcentury BC, of his ‘naif folktale anthropomorphism’.  He attributed the Olympian gods with having fully human characteristics, ‘Thieving and adultery and deceiving one another’.[13].

Finally, fifth century tragedy, ‘freely moving in the sphere of myth’, developed them further into ‘ a complex image of dark and light, of human and alien, of the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ in the notion of divine power’, of ‘inhuman powers that defy description’. [14].  By this time, Homer’s aristocratic Olympian gods, ‘immortal and all powerful’, related directly to different city states, being associated with virtually all aspects of Greek society, and in particular, its politics.

Bestowed upon with virtues and vices, the Olympian family lived their lives independent and isolated like the Greeks themselves.  The Greeks believed the gods were on the side of good: thus they sought their goodwill, and according to Arthur Nock, ‘the gods were larger Greeks’. [15].  John Gould expands upon this, ‘the essence of divinity lies in the paradoxical coexistence of incompatible truths about human experience’. [16].

The cathonic deities that dwelled underground, were called the ‘new’ mystery religions, emerging in the 6th century.  However, they were not new at all, but, rather, were not mentioned in Homer.  These grew in popularity in the sixth century.  Most mysteries that admit to a fellowship included a sacramental meal; ‘so much we learn from a Hellenistic inscription, in which a priest declares that he ‘broke the Bread and poured the Cup for the Mystai’. [17]. However, John Gould disagrees, along with Burkett and Meuli, pointing out that sacrifice of animals may only mean ‘ritualised slaughter’. [18]Walter Burkett clarifies this thought by suggesting it was to overcome the ‘antinomy inherent in all sanguinary sacrifice: killing for food becomes a ritual to honour a god’. [19].

The ‘wild dancers’, originally peasants coming in from the country to the city, who participated in the mystery religion’s midnight revelries, signified an escape from the aristocratic royal Olympian city-state religion.  Thus, in the springtime, at the return of the Maiden Persophone, they could be heard, on their fifteen mile march to the sea, having about them a “mystical air”, and singing the song of ‘the mystic Iakchos’ [20].  At midnight, they celebrated, calling ‘Son of Semele, Iakchos, giver of riches’, ‘dance amongst your pious mystai’, ‘striking with bold / Foot the unbridled sportive rite’. [21].

Those who dared to, peered into those unspeakable ‘Dread Mysteries, which one may not in any way transgress or learn of or utter; for great reverence for the gods checks the voice’. [22].  Athenian Olympian religion, was ‘focused almost exclusively on the life in this world, not in the next’. [23] whereas, these ‘pious mystai’ were seekers of fertility, communion with the dead and the afterlife. [24].

The Mystery religions attracted sincere, respectful, but not humble, reverential awe and admiration amongst its followers. They offered to the Two Goddesses, The Great Mother, Demeter, and her daughter, the Maiden, Persephone, cakes, pelanos, and preparatory offerings after ritual bathing, prior to the offering of the sacrifice.  The hieropoioi collected grain and encouraged the worshippers at Euleusis to offer first-fruits (aparkhai) to consecrate the sacrifice ta hierothuta, which had already been festively prepared, and the pouring of the ‘lustral water’ of libation (sponde) as a gesture of propitiation.[25]

In the midst of their celebrating, the Mystai went into retreat.  It was at this juncture that those who were seeking health, Hygieia celebrated the two-day Epidauria, the festival of the Healer, Asklepios, Apollo’s son.  There, incubation in his sanctuary took place, and ‘each of us set our mattresses in order’ [26] preceded by a three day purity, including abstinence from sexual intercourse, and certain foods, and by offering a sacrifice, in this case, a piglet.[27].

Various state festivals followed Greek traditional custom, the nomos, ‘serving as markers in the flux of time’ [28].  Notwithstanding, so complex were their festival calendars that each individual polis and tribe, ‘exhibit an extreme particularism’.  Indeed, ‘the living religious practice of the Greeks is concentrated on the festivals’. [29].

By the middle of the sixth century two ‘Great Festivals’ surpassed all others; the Panathenaea at the beginning of the civil year in summer, celebrated in iconography by the frieze encircling the cella of the Parthenon; and the ‘Great Dionysia’ in the spring, with the Eleusinian Mysteries gaining equal prominence.  Festivals were a time of processions, dances, vows and prayers, animal sacrifice with feasting, contests of various kinds, ensuring in all of this that none of the gods had been forgotten.  During a time of war, those participating in the festivals were offered safety as they made their journeyed to the sacred place.

Religion pervaded the lives of the Greeks and none but the impious were excluded.  Boys and girls together with their parents and household slaves, the genos, gathered in the courtyard bowing at their home altar.  Women and girls carried their own sense of self worth; through birth, puberty, marriage, childbirth, and death.  Little girls, called arktoi, got to act as ‘she-bears’, performing dances for Artemis [30].  Young unmarried women attendants, parthenoi, especially chosen, helped annually to weave a beautiful cover for the great goddess, the formidable Athena.  Married women attended the three day festival, Thesmophoria.

Dedications to Artemis was carried out by the young women at vantage points of neutral territory on polis borders, thereby a focus of conflict.  By attending festivals and processions there, they contributed to the safety of the polis itself. [31].  Her priestess, like the parthenos, represented all the young women of the community.  Each citizen had their ‘place of cult’, their family graves, which could not be removed from one place to another.  Dead hero’s places of burial were celebrated.  Even slaves in Athens were granted a festival day, Kronia, running riot through the city and in Sparta, Hyacynthia, enjoying a sumptuous banquet waited on by their masters.

One of the means of knowing the will of the gods, mantike, was by divination.  These could take the form of ‘reading’ the internal organs of the victims sacrificed, until one got favorable omens.  Alternatively, the flight and the screaming of birds overhead or of portents, (events deemed to be out of the normal order), visions, dreams and other signs, and warnings, based on the god’s having foreknowledge, were sought.

Spartans, especially, ‘loved oracles, more perhaps than did the citizens of any other Greek state’. [32].  Delphi, the most famous sacred place of all for oracles and omens, seers and divination, was visited by citizen and politician alike, all seeking direction, and until ‘they had learnt all the details from the seers’ would not make a decision. [33].

To recapitulate, the gods of the Greeks were not ‘distant, aloof, and uninterested in human affairs’.  However, there were obstacles to overcome.  These were bridged by providing ‘sacred space’ and by ritual.  So long as each person carried out their duty, in such matters as were required of them to ensure the god’s favor, then the gods were expected to reciprocate in like manner.  The consequence was that having performed their obligations, the Greeks believed that they won the god’s favour, and thereby set about to enjoy their religion in very many varied and marvelous ways.

‘We believe in the existence of immortal gods and on account of the honours which they receive, and of the good things they bestow upon us’.  (Plut. Per. 8, 9).  

[1]J. Gould, ‘on making sense of Greek religion’, p.14, in Easterling, P.E. & Muir, J.V. Greek Religion and Society, Cambridge, 1985.

[2] L.B. Zaidman, & P.S. Pantel, ‘rituals’, in Religion in the Ancient Greek City, Cambridge, 1992, p. 55.

[3] R.S.J. Garland, ‘priests and power in classical Athens’, p. 81, in M. Beard & J. North (eds.) Pagan Priests: Religion and Power in the Ancient World, London 1990.

[4] Zaidman, & Pantel, op.cit., p. 29.

[5] S.G. Cole, ‘domesticating Artemis’, in Blundell, S. & Williamson, M. The Sacred and the Feminine in Ancient Greece London, 1998.p. 29.

[6] J. Mikalson, ‘piety & impiety’ p. 92 Athenian Popular Religion, Chapel Hill, 1983.

[7]Gould, op. cit., p.5.

[8] W. Burkett, ‘Greek Religion’, Oxford, 1985, p. 274.  

[9] L.B. Zaidman, & P.S. Pantel, ‘religious personnel’, in Religion in the Ancient Greek City, Cambridge, 1992, p. 51.

[10] Zaidman, & Pantel, op. Cit., p. 28.

[11] M. Dillon & L. Garland, Ancient Greece, London. 12.43, p 382.

[12] W. E. Dunstan Ancient Greece, Harcourt, 2000, p. 118

[13] Dillon & Garland, op. cit.,12.12, p 364

[14] Gould, op. cit., pp.27-8.

[15] A. S Nock, Religious Attitudes of the Ancient Greeks, 1942, American Philosophical Society 85, p. 477.

[16] Gould, op. cit., p.32.

[17] A.R. Burn The Lyric Age of Greece. London, 1960, p. 349.

[18] Gould, op. cit., pp.18-9.

[19] W. Burkett, ‘Athenian cults and festivals’, p. 251, in D.M. Lewis, J.K. Davies, M. Ostwald (eds.), The Fifth Century BC, Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 5, ed. 2, Cambridge, 1992.

[20] A.R. Burn, The Lyric Age of Greece’, p. 353.

[21] Dillon & Garland op. cit.,12.2. ll. 330/1/2, p 357.

[22] Dillon & Garland op. cit.,12.1 ll. 478-79, p. 356-57

[23] J. Mikalson, ‘the afterlife’ p. 75, Athenian Popular Religion, Chapel Hill, 1983.

[24] ANCH110 Study Resources, p.50

[25]Dillon & Garland, op. cit,. IG 13 78 (IG 12 76) 12.6, p 360.

[26]ibid, 12.9.  l. 663, p 362.

[27] W. Burkett, ‘Greek Religion’, Oxford, 1985, pp. 267-8.  

[28] W. Burkett, ‘Athenian cults and festivals’, p. 245.

[29] Burkett, op. cit., p. 225.  

[30] Dillon & Garland, op. cit,. 12.38, ll. 641-46.

[31] Cole, op. cit., pp. 27-8. 

[32] R. Parker, ‘Spartan religion’, p. 154, in A. Powell (ed.) Classical Sparta: Techniques behind Her Success , London, 1989.

[33]Dillon & Garland, op. cit,, 1.2, p. 3.



Israel: Knesset extended emergency regulations

Dear Tricia,

The essential news from our previous update remains unchanged.

  • Israel’s travel restrictions for foreigners is still in place.
  • JUC is in contact with the Ministry of the Interior so that as soon as they begin to process Student Visa requests (currently no visas are being processed) we will be ready to submit the information for our incoming fall 2020 students.
  • JUC has written a letter to the Ministry of the Interior giving the pertinent information for our continuing students who currently hold valid Israeli student visas requesting that they be allowed into Israel.  The Ministry of the Interior will be passing along this information to the Airport Authority to obtain their authorization for the return of these students in time for the Fall 2020 semester.  If you hold a current Israeli Student Visa, DO NOT purchase a ticket yet as your return to Israel is not confirmed at this point and there may be added steps to take if and when we receive notice of authorization.

This is a statement in The Times of Israel from Wednesday, 17 June…The Knesset voted late Tuesday (16 June) to extend emergency regulations that allow the government to impose coronavirus restrictions on the public as Israel struggles with a resurgence in cases. The previous regulation expired at midnight Monday and the lawmakers voted Tuesday to renew them for an additional 45 days with the high-level coronavirus cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, set to convene Wednesday afternoon to discuss the rise in cases and whether to reimpose certain restrictions.

We pray that God is making himself known to you in special ways during these uncertain times and we trust that as we wait on Him He will renew our strength.  (Is. 40:31).

Until next week…Blessings from Jerusalem,

Diane Wright

Director of Student Services
Jerusalem University College 

‘ALL ABOUT EVE’ SERIES: EVE: The First Woman – Mother of All Living

Eve: Garden of Eden - Modern Map


There has always been a lot of hype about Eve! Many conflicting ideas about her are drawn from the translations and commentaries on her, along with ancient writings. It may then come as a surprise that Eve does not attract any attention from the ancient writers of the Hebrew Scriptures. Indeed, she is not referred to again after the early chapters of Genesis.

The Christian Scriptures (NT)  only referred to Eve by name twice. Yet interest surrounding Eve is embedded in the Greco-Roman culture. This influence is found in many of the teachings Paul addresses concerning women. A thorough examination of these scriptures cannot be presented here as this is not my purpose (E/n [i]).

Rather, I want to raise the consciousness of the woman reader who believes the bible translation she holds in her hands to be infallible. In my mind, to take at face value the words on the page is to ignore the treasure below the surface of every word. With this in mind may I ask, to give one example, if you have considered that the original Hebrew words did not have vowels.

These vowels were inserted later to make it easier to read. Does it occur to you that if there is bias in the mind of those who inserted these that if one changed the inserted vowel to another it would change the word to another and carry with that change a new word and meaning?

Biased interpretation

It is impossible not to bring an element of bias to the interpretation of the text. As you read my papers you are going to encounter my partiality. I am not gender-inclusive. I have a bias towards the masculinisation of the language. I want to expose the patriarchal bias in the interpretation of the text. I adopt the well known feminist position of reading with suspicion everything male writers and commentators have to say about the women in the bible.

I am definitely prejudiced against patriarchy. I have no toleration for it, be it male or female practising or preaching it. I am very much aware that when men preach about life in general and life’s experiences they are not preaching to the reality women face, living in a mysoginistic culture as we do.

I am writing for women readers of the bible. I am endeavouring to shine a light on the bias against women in the translation and interpretation of Scripture as well as in Christian circles. I am not polite in saying what I want to say. I’m too old now to hold back. Time is short for me and I have nothing to lose.

Based on my research and my own deductions over the last fifty years arising out of comparing scripture with scripture, so I reinterpret it. I attack the false doctrines arising out of the misconstrued teachings through my writings. I make no apology for that.

Women, like Eve,  have many antagonists. This makes any interpretation of the first woman far more complex and of greater import than her antagonists like to admit,  or, permit, where their power holds sway. (E/n [ii]). For example, as would be expected, in both the Old and the New Testaments, skewed teachings exist about a woman’s place in God’s economy being less equal to a man’s. I  refute this in every one of my teaching papers and publish them on my website.

These false teachings and translation and interpretation of scripture show these biases in gender roles and types assigned to the male and the female in both books of the Bible. Another aspect overlooked is the hatred of women that prevailed in the ancient prescriptive writings of men of renown. We can read them but it’s a problem when people actually believe those diatribes railed against women. This was unfortunately of the periods the Hebrew and Christian scriptures were finally accepted as canon. (E/n [iii])

Early Genesis Account about Eve

Yes, it is true; Eve was deceived through craftiness, described visually as coming from a walking, talking serpent. Eve is depicted as naive and Adam as rebellious and passive, the serpent as having cunning intelligence. Nowhere does it say the serpent represents Satan or a devil or a devilish spirit.

In ancient times the serpent represented many things good, beautiful, and evil.  Judaism makes no reference to such a creature supposedly fallen or cast down from heaven. Modern-day interpreters have misconstrued scriptures and made up doctrines that can’t be substantiated throughout scripture.

Further, the Jews knew nothing of an angel falling from heaven, neither of their demise and ‘going to heaven.’ Indeed their mantra was ‘eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die”. They wanted to live long on this earth, inherit land, and embrace prosperity. I am not saying one thing or another about their lifestyle but I am saying what they did not give any heed to.

Eve’s warning and the consequences of her naivety

When questioned by God Eve told the simple truth about her part in eating the fruit of the tree of death (of the knowledge of good and evil). Adam, on the other hand, blamed the woman and God for his partaking with the woman and eating of the same fruit . Adam tried to escape his part in it by blame-shifting.

‘Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3: 12

Eve did not blame God or the man. Rather, she told it like it was. She was deceived and placed the blame squarely upon the serpent.

‘And the woman said, “The serpent beguiled (deceived or charmed) me, and I did eat’ (Gen 3:12-13).

Eve’s motives were pure, albeit she was naïve. The serpent and Adam had full knowledge of the two trees in the garden. Adam was given clear instructions from God concerning the eating of the fruit of the two trees. The result of doing so was as follows: the consuming the fruit of the one led to life eternal, the other, eternal death. There is no mention Eve heard these instructions. Adam blame-shifted it onto Eve and God.

[Whoever may be arguing the case with you here, I suggest you ask them to show you where Eve was given or heard the instructions about the two trees].

The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” This is recognised as blame-shifting.

Eve’s Warning and the consequences of her disobedience

God warned Eve

Eve (Heb. Chavah: ‘mother of all life’) was in immediate danger!  God warned her not to ‘turn’ (teshequa – from the tree of life) and follow Adam. God’s warning was she was ‘turning’. By  her ‘turning’ away from the source of eternal life, grace, love and protection, to the man, he would take advantage of that choice.

Eve ‘Turned’

The prophet Jeremiah alludes to the first created woman ‘turning’ when he calls out to Israel to ‘turn back’.

“How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth– A woman will encompass a man.” (Jer 31:22).

In the immediate context the prophet is crying out to the nation of Israel,  relating her to the cities as a daughter, or, daughter-cities, who are as a nation, turning away: (‘chamaq’ : Strong’s #2559: to ‘turn away’, also used in Songs 5:6 ‘But my beloved had turned away[and] had gone!.

In the earlier scripture relating to this, Eve ‘turned’ away from the tree of Life to follow the man. In Jeremiah’s cry, the daughter-cities  had turned away from their God. Jeremiah calls to them to return.

There, he utters a future event, of a new ‘creation’, (Heb. ‘bara’: used in Genesis 1, but not in Genesis chapter 2), of  a new thing in the land. This new creation and the new thing in the land will be a woman will ‘turn back’,( surround, encompass, a man.

The newly created thing in the land is this: a woman will ‘turn back’,’ to cause to go around, to surround’ a man. Who is this woman? She is  the New Creation, the church, the Bride of Christ. We all are called upon to ‘turn around’ our thinking and the direction we are heading in, that is to repent, literally, “think differently afterwards’.

Testimony against Adam the man

Take note, the Hebrew text is not quiet on Adam and his culpability. The central figure in the Book of Job, considered to be the oldest book in the Bible, accuses the man, Adam, as responsible for what’s known as the ‘fall from grace’. Job’s accusation:  ‘Adam hid his sin in his bosom.

If I have covered my transgressions as Adam, By hiding my iniquity in my bosom. Job 31: 33.

Whenever the man is mentioned the spotlight is turned up always depicting him as in a state of outright rebellion against the express command given by the Lord  God to him alone. Therefore both Jobs in the Old Testament and Paul in  Romans 5 in the New Testament lay the final blame five times fully on the man.

‘wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin’ (Rom 5: 12- 19).

Adam was expelled from the garden. There is no mention of Eve being expelled along with him.

[If anyone is arguing with you ask them to show you where it says Eve was expelled from the garden].

Eve and her daughters blamed

Alas! Throughout recorded history, the first woman and her daughters have carried the blame (E/n [vi]). The misogynist writings of men such as Aristotle, blame a woman for the ills of humankind. He and others like him spew out their hatred over their readers. If you have not read any I cannot emphasise the importance of you doing your own research on the web. Frankly, you will be shocked.

It cannot be emphasised enough how much is at stake for women to understand these early chapters of Genesis.  The perversion of these scriptures, in particular, destroys her rightful place as equal to the man and her spiritual status, decreed in Genesis 2, and finally her social status and what it signifies to the church in chapter 3.

Yet, God the Creator places upon her protection and honour, but knowing the end from the beginning, warns her of impending disaster.

Woman’s equal standing

Here in Genesis chapters 1-3 her equal standing before God is declared, her future secured, her accountability in the ‘fall’ is recorded for our learning.  It is high time women awakened out of their spiritual stupor and shake off the shackles and grasped hold of what belongs to us.

It is high time we took hold of our full freedom in Christ and share it with our sisters. Given what is at stake we must examine the blatant manipulation of the scriptures concerning the role and place of women in God’s great plan of salvation.

In Genesis chapter 3 the woman is named as the seed bearer from whose womb the Redeemer would come. What an honour! This glory God bestowed upon her is  seldom if ever mentioned in the church.

Yes, Eve was naive and was fully deceived, causing her to stagger, stumble, and to fall. Like a tree being blown down by the wind, she floundered and lurched from standing upright to finally staggering and coming to rest in a state of misperception rather than faith.

Faith acknowledges God’s Sovereignty

A double-mindedness ensued, one that arose from confusion and resulted in deception. Who is right and who is wrong? Will I or won’t I? What will I do? A double-mind brings with it instability in every decision.

Procrastination will also accompany such a state of mind. Often such people can’t express an opinion. They calculate between one goal and another. Faith is weakened. This kind of mind is a result of being torn between faithfully serving God and serving the world and money.

The litmus test is this: Jesus taught ‘if you do the doctrine, you shall know it. ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise person who built their house on the rock’. (Mt 7: 24)

Eve, therefore, in her ignorance, carries the dishonour of having ‘fallen’. Adam on the other hand did not stumble, lurch or fall, neither was he pushed. A superficial reading of this scripture has had a negative impact on women and girls throughout the world.

It infers that a gender hierarchy is ordained by the Creator with Eve responsible for the fall. It also carries the false idea that through pregnancy, the pain of childbirth, and disciplined living, God has provided women’s salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What is known as the ‘curse of Eve’, has enabled men to create a  position and an agenda through which they promote themselves and put women down. That agenda springs from the false belief that they have been granted special privilege, God has decreed a lower social status for women with men having been given the right to subjugate them and regard them as mere chattels. Both created in the image of God, what kind of men I ask insist on women being less than themselves?

Paul does not teach that the men who teach this deception are themselves deceived; they certainly are not. They are in the same sin as Adam; they sin knowingly. They do not have the Spirit. In every generation, such men oppose the gifts of the Spirit given freely to women as to men.  They are anti-Christ.

Men that Love the Preeminence love authority teachings

It is paramount for a certain kind of man (and their deferential wives, both of whom love the pre-eminence (E/n [xii]) to have women in a subservient role.  They are misogynous.  They are determined to dominate the leading positions in church and society in every generation (E/n [xiii]).  All Christians need to understand the motivation behind the arguments put forward. With such privileged position and power no wonder we see so many fall from such lofty heights.

What kind of people are easily deceived?

Eve was naïve concerning God’s word. Such people are simplistic in their thinking. They are called ‘silly’ in some bible translations. Silly people are envious. They wander around like empty-headed simple doves. They are accused of being thoughtless and unreflective: foolish senseless and silly. Filthy silly jesting, course talk. The bible teaches have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.

Such people are open to wrong teachings, to remaining ignorant. The deception is the love of this world. Eve looked on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and thought it made one wise. Deceived people love to ponder the vain empty philosophies of this world.

‘For this sort are they which creep into houses and lead astray captive silly (weak) women laden with sins led away with different greeds and wants and desires (2 Timothy 3:6).

The ignorant, those lazy people, those not willing to do the work for themselves, they want to be spoon-fed, those are easily deceived. They have stopped thinking and reasoning. They love other people to take the responsibility for them. They especially are drawn toward organisations that lay down the law and all they have to do is follow it.

But we must beware of following the teachings of others and fail to seek truth for ourselves through obedience to the Word. We’re to try the (human) spirit, whether those teaching hold the kernel of the gospel: faith. In other words watch if whether what they teach is being lived out by them and even more importantly, is it working for you? (E/n  [xiv]).

If we do not undertake this exacting work for ourselves. if we disregard history, if we fail to develop our research skills particularly in the original languages, we remain in ignorance. If we are not living the Christian life by doing the doctrines of Christ; if we do not take courage and speak up when we need to defend ourselves and our weaker sisters; then we with them will be subject to abuse.

Jesus taught: know the scriptures, obey them so as to prove the doctrine. You can only prove if a teaching is true by doing it (E/n [xv]).

Eve was not an accomplice, Eve was not an accessory before or after the fact, and Eve was not the deceiver. The Serpent was. Eve was not rebellious. Adam was. Eve was however counted in the transgression.

In Eve’s defense, she is the example of one not knowingly practising deception, but rather as a victim of a debate (vain reasoning: philosophy). The philosophers are the debaters of this world’s religions (E/n [xvi]). Identified by the translators as her tempter, a walking talking serpent could be understood as the voice of reasoning in her own head. There is much written about this and I prefer to expound on it in my Commentary on Genesis Chapter 3.

Eve somehow got a notion of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as offering things that she could thereby gain wisdom. Eve was naïve. Eve was unlearned. Eve was gullible. Eve was deceived. Adam however, was not.

Adam was fully aware of what the word of God was and what the law was and what was required. Eve did not.  Eve ‘fell’ into transgression. Adam did not ‘fall, he was instead complicit in the coverup.

God’s Plan

But God had a plan whereby death came into the world by one man, the first Adam, (not born of a woman), and was overcome by another man, the Second Adam (born of a woman). Recovery was delivered by the second man. That human reversed the sentence of death. The salvation of the human race came by one man of Eve’s seed. A daughter of Eve was the bearer of truth by employing the law of faith: I believe therefore I speak.  That woman of faith gave birth to the second Adam, the one who brought truth and light and life into the world.

The other man or the second Adam came as a human and took upon himself human form, made of clay, born of a woman. Thus chapter 2 of Genesis illustrates the first and the second Adam. What the first humans undid through Eve’s naïveté and Adam’s disobedience, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, came, obeyed, and restored what was lost.

Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Ps 85:10.

For further understanding of the false translation of words in the early chapters of Genesis affecting women’s full freedom in Christ subscribe to this website to receive notifications of posts.

God bless you






[i] A hasty reading of the two references of Eve in the NT generally results in the reader feverishly delving into male-dominated ancient Christian commentaries and modern-day versions all saying the same thing about ideas on women’s place and role in society. These multi-layered complexities of woman derived from Eve are then compared alongside the reading of biased interpretation in almost every bible, available online along with very ancient and hundreds of years old misogynistic commentaries which is mainly where the negative ideas about Eve and women, in general, came from in the first place only contributing to this kind of superficial reading. It might be said all of these combined contributed to today’s negative image of Eve and women in general. Here are some other interpretations of Eve by four women scholars: I advise you to keep reading…keep learning… make up your own mind.

[ii] .

There are some other ideas about Eve for you as a reader to ponder.

[iii] There is much dispute amongst scholars regarding the final acceptance of canon and I suggest you do your own research as this is not my subject here.

[iv] Mt 19:4-6; Mk 10:7; Eph 5:31.

[v] Australian statistics publish the following: female prisoners (in Australia) decreased 4% (131 prisoners) to 3,494 prisoners, while male prisoners increased by less than one percent (195 prisoners). On 30 June 2019, there were 43,028 prisoners in custody. Males continue to comprise the majority of the Australian prisoner population (92% of total prisoners).

[vi] This long history is recorded in the book ‘The War Against Women’ by the author, Marilyn French ISBN10 034538248X. This ‘war against women’ is now acknowledged by journalists who due to rape in war which is so prevalent today they claim it not only serves the lower appetite of combining violence with sex it ultimately serves to wipe out whole communities. Rape and ripping open pregnant mothers has always been where ever and whenever men wage war.

[vii] Deception in the church Deception tag # Was it a snake? The snake represents myths associated with goddess worship and other religion in the world. Religion can be explained as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. BBC ‘religion’. The serpent: probably from Greek, optanomai, (through the idea of sharpness of vision); a snake, figuratively, (as a type of sly cunning) an artful malicious person, (especially Satan – serpent).myth as shown when Paul was on the island of Malta Acts  28:3-4 ‘Paul gathered a bundle of sticks, and as he laid them on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself to his hand. When the islanders saw the creature hanging from his hand they said to one another “surely this man is a murderer although he was saved from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live”.

[viii]  Adam, it appears, was in a ‘not good’ state. Adam was going it alone. This state is revealed by his passivity in as much as he stood by and listened to the serpent relaying the word of God to him but in a twisted way (Gen 3:1-5). Thus, Adam lost his place in the garden and brought death to the world; “by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin”.

[ix] Deceived: Strongs #538 Gr. apataó: to deceive, using tactics like seduction, giving dis­torted impressions, etc. 538 /Gr. apatáō (“lure into deception”) emphasizes the means to bring in error (delusion). Gr. apaté: Strong’s #539: deceit. a false impression made to deceive or cheat – i.e. deceit motivated by guile and treachery (trickery, fraud). The same meaning of the word in the NT: it is used in relation to wealth, the deceitfulness of riches, desires : lusts of the flesh, vain empty teachings that do not deliver, lacking the love of the truth, the deceit of unrighteousness;  the deceit of sin.

[x] A more enlightened translation of this scripture is as follows: “Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman made a mistake as she was beguiled, and she will be saved by means of the Birth of the Child if they continue to be trustworthy, loving and holy and have good sense” (The Source, 1 Timothy 2:13-15) Scripture taken from ‘The Source New Testament’. Copyright ã 2004 by Ann Nyland. Smith and Stirling Publishing. Available through this website – go to Menu: Bibliography

[xi] Strong’s

[xii] The mistranslation of these early chapters of Genesis still holds true. It is commonly believed that God cursed Eve and woman in general by granting the man permission to ‘rule’ over her. It follows, therefore, that women have inherited Eve’s (supposed) weakness, which, when applied (incorrectly) is the reason women ought to cover their heads. It is believed that women are open to deception and vulnerable to evil spirits. As a result, women are cast into the role of weak and easily deceived, temptresses, a danger to men. Unlike the Muslims, who teach that women are ‘fitna’, ‘chaos’ and men must be protected from them, Christian women are viewed as passive bystanders. Patriarchal Christianity teaches Christian women to need a male to protect and cover them from the god of this world and his minions: all seemingly have greater spiritual power over women than men. Many false doctrines have been fabricated, the foundation stones of which are in these false interpretations that surround Eve. I suggest you read ‘The Freedom Papers’, for more about false doctrines invented to keep women in their ‘place’. The last four hundred years through the modern missionary movement, to its detriment, has served to confirm fallen humanity in its degradation of women. The result is, the battle of the sexes continues up to this present day. Not only do we now realise these inaccuracies and grieve the history of women, but it raises the question – are not men sons of Eve also?

[xiii] Eve was warned by God that her ‘desire’, or, literally, ‘turning’, (Heb. ‘teshequa’)  would be ‘toward her husband’ as previously stated, and the consequence of this would be domination: he ‘shall rule over’ her. This is not an imperative, in that all husbands are commanded to rule over their wives, rather that, in her ‘turning’ away from God and looking to a man she forfeited her own authority and autonomy. She had forfeited her personal privilege and relinquished her authority to the man. The result is the same today. In turning from the Tree of Life, the Lord God as their Source of Life and supplier of all their needs, an infantile state of ignorance ensues. Eve repented. She could have stayed in the garden; instead, she chose to follow the man. I suggest for further study, you go to ‘Genesis Revisited’, a commentary on words wrongly translated.  The war against women in the Christian church and home rests on these and other wrongly translated words.

[xiv] Be mature, put to the test the human spirit of those teachers who twist Scripture.( Spirit: Strong’s #pneuma: wind. breath). Spirit can also mean ‘the rational spirit, the power by which a human feeling, thinks, wills, decides; the soul’.

[xv] The doctrine of women in submission to men and men as leaders and women follow is erroneous: it generates bullying, its practice stems from wrong motives. In some instances domestic violence results. It feeds the male-ego… Now, this war against women is out in the open and an indictable offence. This means the perpetrators are being publicly exposed, called out, and held accountably. Violence against children includes verbal and physical bullying in the home outside of it and online and includes older/ stronger siblings. 

[xvi] Gr. suzététés: a disputer Strong’s #4804.. a debater: one who delves into philosophical and religious matters, i.e. fiercely dialogues with others. Or, someone who “sounds off” to look important (“impressive”), especially on moot (uncertain) subjects and without objective basis. A sophist.


A Lament: Show yourself O God – (CoVid-19)

From Patricia Wednesday 22/4/20: 3.00 am or thereabouts.

A Lament: Show yourself O God

I just woke out of one of those dreams, one where I was trying to shake awake my sister, as some terrible cataclysmic event was happening around us and we had to be awake to escape it.

Of course , when I finally came to,

–  It wasn’t so – or is it?

inspired by reading the words of Micah the prophet…

…most of us deep down, any of us that has any compassion, none of us with heart, I would say, can even express fully to one another what we see happening across the face of the globe.

It is inexpressible!

I pray for you my dear friend. And your family, those you love, especially on the front line. Those too, my loved ones, my friends, those close to me, some also on the front line, all those too, I love.

Tonight, we pray, together, with one voice, to our Great Love, Our God and Redeemer, Lover of our souls, we cry out to You.

Are you there, God?

Can you see what’s happening?

Do you sleep?

Are you gone away? Have you forgotten us?

Stir Yourself O Great God, the All – Mighty, Creator, the All – Forgiving God.

We, I, dread to see what great cloud of grief and despair is now, at this very moment, rolling in like a great tsunami across the world.

Now, look, we hear a report- it is coming, rolling in, toward Africa.

“Sing for joy, O Africa”?


Weep and wail, O Africa.

We  cry out, visit Africa, O God, visit too, our land, visit us too, here, where we are, locked away from it in our homes.

But some have no roof, they are in the streets, living on tents, cast out, in violence and fear, molestation and rape, in tents, in the open on closed borders, those elderly, forgotten, already isolated. Them too, and more, please God.

O God. Visit the already sick, the starving, the frail across the world. Yes!  Visit all the world in one almighty redemptive divine visitation of salvation.

Men’s hearts failing them for fear. Even those guilty of corporate sin – the high and mighty of this world- men, and women too, who have bowed the knee to no one but themselves, who worship at their own shrines.

They too , like us, l, … their… our, high mindedness is failing us all  – hearts shaking, for what is yet to come.

It has all gotten out of control.

Yes! even your women’, they too, with their great beating living giving and forgiving women’s mother – hearts. You gave us this gift, our cross, , we are aghast, no frozen, at what seems to be the  release of an angel of death … knocking on doors, visiting houses great and small.

Behold, it stands at the door and knocks.

Remember us O God. Our hearts are stirred up – we remember you are Mighty and your Mercy. When we cried before to you, O God, you heard us and saved us. Save us now.

You are the One True Living God, the  only God. We acknowledge you – we confess it.

Forgive us our foolishness. Our false beliefs. As if we knew what we were doing, as if we have any power. We do not! We acknowledge this before You. We humble ourselves.

What can we do? Show us what to do and we will obey You.

God forgive us. God love us, comfort us, … them. Do not give up on this world. Not now.

Our salvation is so close. We say with one voice “Come, our Saviour”.

We say again… There is none other beside You.

Forgive and have mercy.

Come to our rescue.

Stop the plague, visited upon us by .. what? who? we do not know.

We recall your goodness: Give food to the mothers, the babes. Give comfort to the vulnerable, the physically, the mentally, the spiritually weak. Bring comfort to those, even now, who are dying.

Thank you for those on the front line. Keep them safe. Strengthen their already courageous hearts.

Stop the  corporate sinners. All those  who think themselves above the God of Heaven.  They are almost fallen from those lofty towers of human might, in the face of this present enemy. Bring them down we pray. Bring justice.

Rise up and bring healing and health. Give wisdom to those searching for answers.

Words fail us.

Save us O God

Show us what these words, penned by the prophet Micah, what they truly mean …

“He has shown thee O human, what  the Lord requires of you

To do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”

What does God ask of us? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.—Micah 6:8




ANE Religions: Persia and King Darius 1. BCE 550

Zaroasterianism – Persia: Indo-Iranian religion – the oldest of the world religions

Religions of the Ancient Near East,

Darius In Parse.JPG

King Darius 1. 550 BCE

In what respects did contact with the teachings of Zarathustra (Zoroaster) bring about changes in Persian ideas about religion and the gods? How are these documented in the inscriptions of King Darius? 

“Zorasterasterianism is the oldest of the revealed world religions, continuously practiced, and it has probably had more influence on mankind, directly or indirectly, than any other single faith” Mary Boyce.

By examining the inscriptions of King Darius, this essay will show the polytheistic beliefs of Persia were changed to qualified monotheism; the fundamental antagonism between Truth (Asha) and the Lie (druj or drug) of the Rig Veda remained, and the great cosmic struggle with the demand for continual moral endeavors confronted each individual believer. However, Darius’s inscriptions do not necessarily show the extent to which the teachings of Zoroaster affected the king, personally. 

[The Behistun Inscription, carved into a cliffside, gives the same text in three languages (Old PersianBabylonianElamite) telling the story of King Darius’conquests, with the names of 23 provinces subject to him. It is illustrated by life-sized carved images of King Darius with other figures in attendance.]

The Rig-Veda was developed orally when the Stone Age was giving way to the Bronze Age of chariot warfare (1700-1500 BCE). At this time, the Aryan people moved south off the steppes and across an advanced civilization in central Asia. Turning southeast, they conquered India before turning southwest onto the plateau of Iran (1000 BCE). The religious society into which Zoroaster was born was similar to that of the Rig-Veda in India. 

There is debate among scholars whether Zoroaster lived during this formative period (1700- 1500 BCE) or during the reign of Darius (500 BCE), based on a late Persian tradition. The earlier dating is preferred. In the Rig-Veda two classes of deity are distinguished, the ‘asuras’ and the ‘deavas’, the former being more remote from and the letter being closer to human beings. The greatest of the asuras is Varina, the protector of Truth, who is the guardian of the moral law; whereas, the greatest of the daevas (the deva of the Sanskrit scriptures of Hinduism) is Indra, the war god of the Aryans, who is the personification of victorious might. Indra is not at all concerned with Moral Order. 

Zoroaster built upon these foundations of the ancient Rig-Veda, the sacred text of the Aryan people. Although essentially polytheistic, the fundamental antagonism between the moral law and might –is-right, along with Truth (Asha) and the Lie (druj or drug) was already in the Rig-Veda. Along with this dualism, Zoroaster also promulgated grand concepts of the one Creator and the great cosmic struggle with the demand for continual moral endeavors. 

The followers of the Lie, in Zoroaster’s day, were predatory, marauding tribal society, which destroyed both cattle and people, a menace to any settled ordered society. Their behavior was related to their belief system: their gods were like them, evil incarnate and to be treated as such. The daevas and their followers chose evil and those who follow the evil are favored by the daevas. 

Zoroaster dethrones the daevas. However, Zoroaster does not see the followers of the Lie as incorrigible; they are free to choose the Good. ‘Between the two (the good and the bad original spirits) the well doers (or wise) have rightly chosen, but not so the evildoers. (Yasna 30: 3). The goal of Zoroaster therefore, was to see the conversion of the ‘evil doers’. 

The doctrine of Zoroaster does not start from any abstract principle, but rather, the prophet thrusts the fundamental antagonism of Truth and Lie right into the forefront of his religious teaching. He considered the daevas to be no gods at all but rather maleficent powers that refused to do the will of the monotheistic God he worshipped, the Wise Lord, Ahura Mazda. Although monotheistic, Ahura Mazda is the head of a pantheon of ahuras, ‘lords’, thus teaching a form of qualified monotheism. Zoroaster has an intellectual vision of God’s goodness. He starts with the concrete situation as he finds it in Eastern Iran, amongst his own Iranian (Aryan) people: pastoralist, settled agricultural community devoted to tilling the soil and the raising of cattle. 

Zoroaster taught that people have a choice ‘listen with your ears to the best things, reflect with a clear mind, man by man, each for his own self, upon the two choices for decision, ready in full awareness to declare yourselves before the great retribution’. [1]. Those who follow the Lie are like the daevas, who have afflicted humankind: ‘Thus they chose the Worst Thought, then rushed into fury, with which they have afflicted the world of mortals’. [2]

The Zoroastrian religion then, has its roots in the same very distant past as the Rig-Veda does, to Indo-European times. One of these doctrines was a better afterlife for all who chose Truth. The old Ahuric religion consigned all lesser mortals to a subterranean life after death. Zoroaster offered resurrection and the hope of heaven, not only to the ‘princes, warriors and priests who served the gods’ as proto-Indo Iranians had [3], but to the ‘lowly persons – herdsmen, and women and children, indeed, ‘Whoever, whether man or woman, Mazda Ahura … and all those whom I shall join in glorifying such as you, with all those I shall cross over the Bridge of the Arbiter’. [4]. Other doctrines, such as final judgment were introduced, for example, ‘he shall be the first there at the retributions by (molten) metal (at the final judgment) (Yasna 30:7). ‘But their own soul and their own conscience shall torment them when they reach the Bridge of the Arbiter forever to become the guests in the House of Deceit’ [5]

The Persians of Archenemies times were notable in worshipping the triad of deities Ahura Mazda, the goddess Anahita, and Mithra (fire), all Yazatas (divine beings worthy of worship), who were to be the principal divinities in the Avesta (the oldest work in Persian religious literature), in having the Magi as their priests. The prophet Zoroaster vehemently opposed the Magi’s practices. These practices included animal sacrifice where intermingled with the cult of the Haoma plant, both Magi practices. The Haoma rite centered on the juice of the plant as the elixir of immortality and ‘from whom death flees’. The worshippers of the daevas slaughtered cattle in vast quantities, ‘the fury generated by the deceitful’. [6]. It is not clear whether the prophet is appealing on behalf of the faithful community or cattle in the care of their pastor in the following lament, ‘the cruelty of fury and violence, of wantonness and brutality, holds me in bondage. I have no other pastor but you’. [7]

Because Zoroaster opposed the daevas, ‘‘I confess myself a worshipper of Mazda, a follower of Zarathushtra, a hater of daevas[8]would have experienced considerable persecution from the Magi priests and other rulers, along with the usual skepticism that accompanies a familiar person who claims a divine and unique revelation. The reading below shows something of the agony of mind that the Prophet was in concerning the surrounding culture he lived in. ‘To what land shall I flee? Where go for refuge? I am excluded from my family and my clan; the community I am with does not satisfy me, neither do the deceitful rulers of the country … I know why I am powerless, Mazda: because my cattle are few and I have few men. [9]

The Avestan religion began and developed in Eastern Iranian lands. For its development in the West, the inscriptions of the Archenemies kings and the Greeks are its main source, particularly Herodotus. The inscriptions of King Darius tell the fuller story of the spread of the Prophet’s teachings. It is obvious from the inscription on the Rock face at Bisitun, that the king is writing to a people who had a consciousness of good and evil, of monotheism, heightened awareness of selves in the universe and of ethical standards and of justice. 

Found high up on a rock face on the highway between Teheran (in Iran, Ancient Persia) and Baghdad (In Iraq, Ancient Babylon) the inscriptions of Darius fulfill at least two of the four main terms to define the religion. These four terms are, ‘holding to the doctrine of Ahura’; ‘opposed to the daevas; ‘followers of Zoroaster’; and ‘worshipper of Mazda’. The last term became standardized as the official designation of the religion. [10]. The Bisitun Inscriptions, written in Old Persian, Babylonian (Akkadian) and Elamite, along with the confession of the Zoroastrian religion, records the rebellions Darius put down when he came to power; they also reveal the extent of unrest the kingdom was in as regards Archenemies rule. We have no way of knowing from the inscriptions whether Darius was opposed to the daevas, seen as they do not mention them. Nor can we be sure that the king was a disciple of Zoroaster. 

However Darius certainly went to great lengths to show the readers at this linguistic and cultural crossroad that he was opposed to the Lie, Wickedness, Disorder and those who followed the Lie; that he was the authoritative ruler on earth in the things of good government and peace, just as Zoroaster was in the spiritual and Ahura Mazda in the heavenly realm. Indeed, it could be said that Darius used the ‘state’ religion to justify his imperialism. The dualism between Truth and Lie of Zoroaster’s teachings are also prominent in Darius’ inscriptions. 

Darius constantly emphasizes the opposition that exists between Truth and Lie. He shows he is a worshipper of Ahura Mazda in the opening lines of both the inscriptions at Bisitun rock and the Susa statue, found near the palace of Darius in Susa, Persia. These two are both written in Persian, Elamite and Akkadian, and both show that the great king Darius agrees with Zoroaster concerning Ahura Mazda, the Creator God, ‘Ahura Mazda is a great God, who created the earth below, who created the sky above, who created happiness for humankind, who made Darius king. [11]

The Susa Statue Inscriptions repeats the above inscription, and sees the entire king’s good qualities, both physical and moral, coming from the bounteous hand of Mazda. Darius is a worshipper of Ahura Mazda, and believes in the afterlife, a teaching of Zoroaster, ‘Whoever worships Ahura Mazda, divine blessings shall be upon him, while alive and when dead’. Bounteous supply of both material and spiritual gifts are in the hand of God, ‘He is bounteous to the needy by his teaching’. [12]

According to the Bisitun Inscriptions, ‘Lying’ meant much the same for Darius as it did for the Prophet: nine kings whom Darius defeated are accused of having lied [13]. Rebels against the established order are accused of being deceitful, ‘Deceit made them rebellious, so that these men deceived the people’. [14]. The rebels lie in that they claim to be kings, when in fact they are no such things: Ahura Mazda does not originate evil. 

The Prophet in the same way, prays on behalf of the believers, ‘to these people, Ahura grant strength and the Rule of Truth, and also of Good Thought, through which comfort and peace may come about. I have indeed recognized, Mazda, that you are the first provider of these things. [15]. Mazda, like Darius, manifests justice in that he is the servant of bounteous Ahura Mazda, the source of all good things. 

There is no evidence that Darius was a confessed disciple of Zoroaster: he does not mention him by name in any of the royal inscriptions. Nevertheless, the God of the Akhaemenes household was Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord. These inscriptions, albeit for political purposes, nevertheless show that the monarch worshipped the prophet’s monotheistic God. Darius, according to his inscriptions, adhered to primitive Zoroastrianism.  However, Darius, like Zoroaster ‘between these two (spirits), not even the gods (daeva, Sanskrit deva) chose correctly’, [16] also recognized the existence of other gods‘. Darius confesses, ‘Ahuramazda brought me help, and the other gods that there are’. [17]

Darius sees himself as holding the kingdom given him by the will of the God on trust for him, “by the will of Ahuramazda I am king [18]; I hold this Empire. [19]. Zoroaster held this same sense of destiny: ‘this one here has been found by me (Good Thought’s reply) to be the only one who has heeded our teaching, namely Zarathushtra Spitama. He desires, Mazda, for us and for Truth, to sound forth hymns of praise’. [20]

Darius acknowledges that Ahura Mazda, ‘he brought me help’. [21]. Darius holds to the same diagnosis of evil as being the manifestation of the Lie as does the Prophet: rebellion against the king amounts to rebellion against God. Rulers are divinely appointed; it is their responsibility to hold all wrongdoing in check: ‘You who shall be king hereafter, guard yourself carefully against Deceit; the evil force opposed against Ahuramazda; the man who is deceitful, punish him severely’. [22]

God had made Darius king and his it was to see that peace reigned in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet. Darius says, ‘to the people I restored the pastures and the herds, the household slaves and the houses … I established the people in their places, Persia and Media and other provinces, as before. I brought back what had been taken away. [23]. To restore peace all usurpers, therefore, must be eradicated. 

Darius was well aware of the danger to royal rulers of rebel usurpers: the Achaemenid’s line of kings sprang from Cyrus the usurper. Darius himself is called a usurper, [24] coming to power as he did when he joined the conspirators, and killed the Magi usurper to the Akhaemenes throne. Herodotus claims that Darius, belying his future reliance upon his inscriptions to testify to his moral stance, said that there are ‘many occasions when words are useless, and only deeds will make a man’s meaning plain’. [25]

On the same occasion, Herodotus (p.183:72) has Darius denying Truth, where he reasons thus: ‘if a lie is necessary, why not speak it? We are all after the same thing, whether we lie or speak the truth: our own advantage’. Men lie when they think to profit by deception, and tell the truth for the same reason – to get something they want, and to be the better trusted for their honesty. It is only two roads to the same goal’. The inscriptions themselves confirm that ‘there are things misleading in his [Darius’s] account of his rise to power’. [26] . It also must be remembered that the report is being given among a people who set great store by telling the truth. 

Two other inscriptions of Darius, the Suez Canal Inscriptions of Egypt, and the introductory note, written in Persian, Elamite and Akkadian and the Susa Statue Inscriptions both repeat the same confession of Zoroaster’s God by Darius. ‘Ahurumazda is a great god, who created the earth below, who created the sky above, who created humankind, who created happiness for humankind, who made Darius king. [27]. However, the same Susa Statue Inscription, written in hieroglyphic Egyptian, reveals another side of Darius’s belief system. 

For example, the Susa Statue Inscription incorporates Darius into the framework of the royal theology of Heliopolis, as son of Atum-Rey, ‘The good god, who rejoices in Truth (Ma’at), chosen by Atum the Lord of On (Heliopolis) to be the master of all that is encompassed by the Aton (sun-disk), because he recognizes him as his son and his agent’. The inscription also acknowledges the goddess Neith as giving Darius ‘the bow she wields, to overthrow all his enemies, doing as she had done for the benefit of her son Rey, at the first time, (the beginning of time), so that he is strong to repulse those who rebel against him, to subdue those who rebel against him in the Two Lands’. [28]

It is possible that Darius was as his predecessor, Cyrus, who showed religious tolerance to those he ruled over to continue worshipping their gods in their own way. For example, the Jews proclaimed Cyrus a Messiah because he not only allowed them, during their exile in Babylon, their own monotheistic belief in Yahweh, but also made it possible for them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple there. ‘Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus … that thou mayest know that I, the Lord which call thee by thy name … though thou hast not known me. [29]

In conclusion, we see that Zoroaster drastically changed the ancient Persian ideas about religion and the gods, from polytheism to qualified monotheism, from worship of the daevas to worship of Ahura Mazda. The people were confronted with choice between Truth and Lie, with the consequences of divine reward and punishment. The inscriptions of Darius show that he held to the doctrines of Zoroaster and that he was a worshipper of Ahura Mazda. However, as has been shown, there is no proof that Darius was a disciple of Zoroaster or that he opposed the daevas

[1] Zoroaster, Yasna 30:2, Doc 103, reproduced in RELS 202, Study Resources, Religions of the Ancient Near East, UNE 2002, Armidale, p. 137. 

[2] Ibid. Yasna 30:6, p. 137.

[3] Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their religious beliefs and practices, London, 1979, p. 14. 

[4], Zoroaster, Yasna 46: 10. Doc 104, RELS 202, p. 139. 

[5] ibid., Yasna 46:11, p. 139. 

[6] Zoroaster, Yasna 30: 2. op. cit. p. 137. 

[7] Zoroaster, Yasna 29:1 Doc 102, RELS 202, p. 135. 

[8], Zoroaster, Yasna 10, Hymn to Mithra, Doc 106, RELS 202, p. 140. 

[9] Zoroaster, Yasna 46: 2, op. cit. p. 138. 

[10] R. C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, London, 1961, p. 154. 

[11] Darius the Great, The Suez Canal Inscriptions, Doc 109: 1 & Doc 110: 1. RELS 202, pp. 146-7.

[12] Zoroaster, Yasna 30: 7, op. cit. p. 137. 

[13], Darius the Great, The Bisitun Rock Inscription, Doc 108: 52: 19, pp. 144-5. RELS 202. 

[14] ibid. Doc 108: 54. p. 145. 

[15] Zoroaster, Yasna 29: 10, Doc 102, op. cit., p. 136. 

[16] ibid. Yasna 30:6. p. 137. 

[17] Darius the Great, Doc 108:62, op. cit. p.145. 

[18] ibid. Doc 108:5, p. 143.

[19]ibid. Doc 108;9, p. 143. 

[20] Zoroaster, Yasna 29:8, Doc 102, op. cit., p. 136. 

[21] Darius the Great, op. cit., Doc 108: 31, p. 144. 

[22] Darius the Great, op. cit., Doc 108: 55, p. 145. 

[23] Darius the Great, op. cit., Doc 108: 14, p. 143. 

[24] A.T. Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire, Chicago, 1948, p. 107-118. 

[25] Herodotus, The Histories, Book 111, trans. Aubrey De Selincourt, Penguin, London, 1996, p. 183: 72. 

[26] J.M. Cook, The Persian Empire, London, 1983, p. 52. 

[27] Darius the Great, The Suez Canal Inscriptions, Doc 109:2 & The Susa Statue Inscriptions Doc 110:1, RELS 202, p. 146-7. 

[28] ibid. Darius the Great, Doc 110:2, p. 147. 

[29] Isa 45:1&5. 

Women in Ancient Roman Society & Home

What role did women play within the Roman family?  Did they have a role in Roman society outside the family?  

To discover what role women played within the Roman family (familia) and outside it, different social classes of women and their various roles in the home and society will be considered in this essay: women’s official role in the family, occupations outside the home, religious activities, women in politics and education.  I will argue that women’s roles changed due to two main factors: the blurring of the Roman domestic and public spheres, and, an ideological shift that took place in the in the law under Augustus. As a direct result of these two factors, Roman women, particularly patrician women, gained greater social, economical, and political freedom under the law and in society.  

The Roman woman was not confined to the home and hearth, as was the Greek upper-class woman.  However, her gender identity was held by the Roman state to be biologically scripted, being ‘linguistically and socially constructed in the interests of patriarchal power relations’.[1]  The obvious difference between the Roman matron and her Greek counterpart is discernable due to the blurring of the domestic and public spheres in ancient Roman society.  

The elite Roman family’s role, as a major, if not the main political unit, in a staunchly and traditionally patriarchal system, ‘was able to furnish its womenfolk with what modern political scientists label a ‘power base’.[2]  The official role of the Roman upper class mother (mater), the wife of a patrician, was to prepare their freeborn sons (filius) to become fruitful Roman citizens (civis romani) with all the pride that this job involved.  It was due to this central role that the Roman woman was honoured.  

Therefore, because of the way in which the Roman upper-class family was structured, the upper class Roman matron (matrona) held an official position as lawful wife, lawful mother and citizen.  In this central position from the private sphere, in both political and social significance, Roman women were required to participate in men’s lives in order to assimilate their values and act as faithful transmitters of them.  Entrusted with this fundamental instrument for the perpetuation of a transmittance of a culture, it could be said that Rome’s political system depended upon the Roman matron’s co-operation to continue to function as it did.  

Not withstanding her familial duties, all of Rome’s women and children were under the law of the male head of the household (paterfamilias); this law greatly-hindered her freedom.  Romans considered the woman as intellectually inferior to the male of the species, ‘Our ancestors established the rule that all women, because of their weakness of intellect, should be under the power of guardians’. [3]  

However, an ideological shift took place in the law, during the imperial period of Augustus’ reforms, bringing with it a measure of autonomy for women (27 BC-AD 14).  ‘Guardianship terminates for a free-born woman by title of maternity of three children, for a freed-woman under statutory guardianship by maternity of four children: those who have other kinds of guardians … are released from wardship by title of three children’. [4]  

Outside the home, the history of women and politics in ancient Rome reveals an unofficial women’s politics of protest.  Cato, as early as 195 BC, complained, ‘must we accept law from a succession of women?  Our ancestors would not have a woman transact private matters of business without a guardian, but we allow them to visit the Forum and the Assembly, to support a bill, to canvas for the repeal of a law.  Let them succeed in this and what limit to their ambitions will there be? [5]  Finally, upper class Roman women’s involvement in imperial Roman society arrived in their influencing the emperor’s choice of policy and a candidate, so much so that, Cato the Censor, 195 BC said, ‘once or twice women came close to co regency. [6]  

The Roman upper-class woman had a responsibility to her husband, her family and the state to remain chaste and at least appear to uphold the traditional ideological image and role.  ‘Here lies Amymone, wife of Marcus, best and most beautiful, worker in wool, pious, chaste, thrifty, faithful, a stayer-at-home’. [7]  Though the sources for women are limited, these describe, in the main, what men wanted to convey about women.  However, there is a difference between social ideology and social behaviour; between the prescriptive and the descriptive.  

In keeping with Rome’s prescriptive ideology, the Roman woman’s fidelity provided alliances with other patrician houses (gens).  These alliances were due, in the main, to the Rome’s upper-class daughter’s (filia) training to comply with Rome’s traditional ideology regarding women through marriage.   Training was carried out by their mothers.  

The description given of Murdia reveals her as such a daughter, albeit described through male words and ideals.  ‘She determined to maintain the marriages given her by her parents to worthy men, with obedience and proprietary, and as a bride to become more beloved because of her merits, to be thought dearer because of her loyalty, to be left in greater honour because of her judgment, and after her death to be praised in the estimation of her fellow citizens’. [8]  Faithful daughters such as Murdia provided the link in the Roman system, marrying together families for political power.  

Class and social distinctions were set according to a moral standard, by age and by whether women were slave (servus) or free, along with marital status.  Fundamental subdivisions such as young virgin, celibate adult, wife, wife married only once and widow, carried all the way through to religious observances.  Such distinctions played their part to maintain social control over Rome’s women and their prescribed roles in that society. [9]

Before Christianity finally took over, Rome had its traditional state religions as well as the imported Oriental exotic varieties.  Both kinds of religions held exclusive public festivals for women to both enlist divine aid or to divert the wrath of a deity. [10]  However, other than the perpetual priesthood of Rome’s six vestal virgins, buried alive for punishment if found out for breaking their chastity vows, the priests of Rome’s religions were male.  Nevertheless, in private, women of Rome were the traditional keepers of religion.  Cicero reminds his wife of the division that was in Roman society between the religious and the secular, the woman and the man: ‘The [ideal] division of labour – the cultivation of the heavenly powers by the woman and the care of the mundane by the man’. [11]  

Roman women, unlike their Greek counterpart, dined with men and went out in the street.  However, certain proprietaries did prevail in which Kathleen Corley proposes that aspects of Grece-Roman meal etiquette were undergoing changes that reflected larger cultural forces throughout Greco Roman society.  ‘Just as women were moving into public roles and gaining rights previously denied them under a more restrictive Greek social code, Roman women were attending public meals. [12]  

Such meals were a standard feature of Roman society.  Banquets, therefore, provided a role for slave women to fulfil, such as, waiting on tables, working as musicians and dancers.  The slave women’s duties also included sexual favours, carried out following the main meal.  This is when drinking and other frivolous behaviour took place. [13]  

A large number of home-born women slaves (verna) fulfilled various roles in wealthy Roman households.  There, they were involved in every manner of general domestic duties, as well as wet nurses, and, depending upon their background and country of origin, even educators.  In some instances, a woman slave may even be the housekeeper of a villa.  Varro, on agriculture, records that slave women were involved in agricultural activities on a country estate which meant being involved in hard labour: ‘being able to tend the herd or carry firewood and cook the food, or to keep things in order in their huts’. [14]  

The Roman master had sexual access to all his slave women.  For some of Rome’s males, slave women were, inevitably, a source of income for him as part of Rome’s sex trade.  There, slave women worked as prostitutes in brothels, inns, or public baths, as were women actors and entertainers who sometimes appeared nude and performed sexual acts on stage.  Slave women could buy their freedom or be granted it by their owner while either alive or by will at death.  

Roman women, over the centuries, took every opportunity to break free from the confines of Roman ideology.  The impact of two generation of civil war (90-30 BCE) and heads of noble families killed, or exiled, saw educated and leisured women become enterprising women, using whatever means they had at their disposal.  Valeria Messalina, in accosting and winning in marriage the autocrat Sulla; Caecilia Metella, used her position for political influence.  Others, such as Cicero’s wife, Terentia, ran financial affairs through her steward, and profited at her husband’s expense.  Yet, others, such as Cato’s half sister, Servilia, used her skills through family connections. This was to make alliances thru the marriages of her daughters with rising politicians of many kinds of groups.[15].  

Scholars have offered scant evidence of ancient Roman women’s education and their role in it.  However, a recent work states ‘from the late republic onwards upper-class girls, as a rule, received an elementary education and quite a number of them followed (part of) the course in grammar on a level with the boys of their class … in the liberal arts, especially mathematics and philosophy’.[16]  C. Musonius Rufus, a Stoic philosopher, argued for the education of girls to make her a chaste wife, a prudent manager of the household and a good mother, who would guide her children and her grandchildren by example.[17]  

Through education, women’s lives took on new meaning, influences, and new roles.  Cornelia, the mother of the Graccchi (200 BC) was the earliest highly educated women we know of, and was a patron of Greek scholars and men of letters in her later years.[18]  Cornelia ‘had a good knowledge of literature, of playing the lyre, and of geometry, as well as being a regular and intelligent listener to lectures on philosophy’.[19]  Other Roman women who received education had access to libraries.  Women of patrons of literature and learning are also mentioned in the same work by Hemelrijk.  

During the period of Republican Rome, women are reported as speaking in court for the first time, due to the unsettled times and loss of men at and in the war.  Maesia of Sentinum earned the name ‘Androgyne’ for pleading in her own defence.  Afrania ‘was addicted to lawsuits… a notorious example of female abuse of court’.[20]  The famous argument put forward by Hortensia, who, because of the heavy taxes of civil war, she pleaded before the triumvirs on behalf of Rome’s wealthy matrons, in 42 BCE, is well known  ‘Why should we pay taxes when we have no part in the honours, the commands, the statecraft for which you contend against each other with such harmful results’.[21]  

Roman women, particularly patrician women, gained greater social, economical and political freedom for themselves and ultimately, for other women of Rome, due to the blurring of the public and the private sphere.  Such blurring provided the women with a power base in the home.  In the time of Augustus, an ideological shift took place that also allowed them some autonomy.  Civil wars affected Rome’s society and women’s roles and women themselves, by their own efforts, saw their roles and power expand within and outside the home, amongst women of the upper as well as the lower classes.  

[1] Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, But She Said: Feminist practices of biblicaliInterpretation, Boston, 1992, p. 88.  

[2] Judith Hallett, Fathers and Daughters in Roman Society: Women and the elite family, Princeton, 1984, p. 29.  

[3] Naphtali, Lewis & Meyer, Reinhold, (ed), Roman Civilization, Sourcebook 11: The Empire, London, 1966, p. 543.  

[4] Elaine Fantham, Helene Peet Foley, Natalie Boymel Kampen, Sarah B. Pomeroy, H. A. Shapiro, Women in Classical World: Image and text, Oxford, p. 303.  

[5] Richard A. Bauman, Women and Politics in Ancient Rome, London, 1992, p 1.  

[6] ibid., p. 6.  

[7] Mary R. Lefkowitz & Maureen B. Fant, Women’s Life in Greece and Rome: A source book in translation, Baltimore, 1992, p. 17.  

[8] ibid., p 17-18.

[9] Sarah Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: women in classical antiquity, New York, 1975, p 206. 

[10] Ibid., p. 206.   

[11] ibid., p. 205. 

[12] Kathleen E. Corley, Private Women, Public Meals: social conflict in the synoptic tradition, Massachusetts, 1993, p. 24.  

[13] ibid., p 47.  

[14] Fantham, Foley, Kampen, Pomeroy, op. cit, p. 267.  

[15] Ibid., p. 272.  

[16] Emily A. Hemelrijk, Marona Docta: Educated women in the roman elite from Cornelia to Julia Domna, 1999, London,p. 59.  

[17] ibid., p. 61-4.  

[18] Ibid., p. 54.  

[19] Ibid., p. 272.  

[20] ibid., p. 273.

[21] Ibid., p. 273.   Hortensia, daughter of consul and advocate Quintus Hortensius Hortalus, earned notoriety during the late Roman Republic as a skilled orator. She is best known for giving a speech in front of the members of the Second Triumvirate in 42 B.C. that resulted in the partial repeal of a tax on wealthy Roman women.