From the Archives: Women’s Bodies and the Bible by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted May 20, 2019. You can click here to see the original comments.

Trigger Alert:  The bible on its face is quite violent to women.

Amidst the ugliness that is American politics in general and abortion politics specifically, I began to look for guidance to understand what is happening. I ended up pulling out two books that I read long ago. The first is Woe to the Women-The Bible Tells Me So by Annie Laurie Gaylor. Gaylor, in turn, was inspired by the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton in her The Women’s Bible which was originally published in two parts (1895 and 1898).

I had forgotten how inspired I have been by both books. Together, they motivated me to begin looking at how the bible is a foundational paradigm of our culture. I started researching how translations have been altered from original meanings. I have already written a few blogs about how the representations of Eve have been changed to strip Her of the roots of Her original power. Take a look here and here.

These books reminded me of why such work is necessary. Here is what Stanton wrote in her introduction:

The Bible teaches that woman brought sin and death into the world, that she precipitated the fall of the race, that she was arraigned before the judgement seat of Heaven, tried, convicted and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage, maternity, a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjection, she was to play the role of a dependent on man’s bounty for all her material wants . . .

No wonder women in America have only had the vote for less than 100 years. No wonder men can think and say phrases like “consensual rape.” (Yep, captured on video, spoken by Barry Hovis, Missouri legislator, 5/17/2019). I’ll never forget another despicable thought about rape by a politician; “Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” (Clayton Williams, Texas, 3/1990) I think attitudes like that perfectly express why we have the “suffering, anguish, silence and subjection” that Stanton described.

Stanton and Gaylor both ascribe such attitudes to what has been ingrained in us through the bible. I agree.

As Gaylor points out, rape in the bible is never considered a crime against the woman but instead is a crime against another man’s property. This is seen in Deuteronomy where a woman’s body is treated as an object that is purchased for cash; a repulsive variation of “if you broke it you bought it.”

If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife. (Deuteronomy 22:28)

2 Samuel graphically describes using the public rape of women to punish their husbands’ indiscretions. It is the biblical version of a whipping boy only in this case, involving the humiliation and rape of women.

Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. (2 Samuel:11-12)

In Leviticus, women who are raped must pay a gruesome punishment price (how dare she be raped) while the man is offered penance and forgiveness.

And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him. (Leviticus 19:20-22)

The “curse” or “stain” of Eve can never be undone in biblical beliefs. Women are sinful “harlots” while men are unwitting victims of seduction.

Proverbs 7:9-27 tell a story about a woman seducing an avowed innocent youth “with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.” She is described crassly. She is loud, someone who “lieth in wait” with an “impudent face.” The story tells how “with the flattering of her lips she forced him.” I read this and wonder what an impudent face would look like. I also wonder how her lips could have “forced him.”

In case, there is any doubt of where the evilness lies, the moral at the end of the Proverbs story makes it plain. It lies with women.

For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

Even if we don’t know these stories explicitly, they have seeped into our society’s consciousness. They still function today in men’s (even sometimes women’s) words, beliefs and actions. How else can the words “consensual” and “rape” ever be used together? The beliefs underlying these stories show up today in our justice system, our politics, our ecology, and most recently and glaringly, in the anti-choice legislation raging through state legislatures.  How can we go on if we can’t reclaim the very most basic of our human rights? The right of our personal body integrity. WE MUST CHANGE THE NARRATIVE

BIO: Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a ShamanWhen Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), and One Gods.

Categories: abuse, Abuse of Power, Bible, Body, Embodiment, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Gender, Gender and Power, Gender and Sexuality, General, Herstory, Rape, Rape Culture, Sexual Violence

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11 replies

  1. Rape is ASSAULT and worse than assault. Defending rape is like defending terrorism. In fact rape IS terrorism 😢

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Wow. I believe in God but the bible was written by man and revised by Kings. Women have been blamed for everything since the beginning of time.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Yup–“consensual rape,” indeed, “just relax and get over it.” I’ve had a couple highly fundamental Christian friends who kept at me to read the Bible. Well, I’ve read it, and I’ve understood that women are not valued in that very UNholy book. Those friends believed every word and did not question the verses you cite or any other verses about women. They would not read anything about the Goddess. Alas. Thanks so much for writing this post. I hope more people read it and then pay attention to what their book actually says. Bright blessings to you and your work. And during the storms along the eastern edge of the continent, stay warm and dry and safe!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Barbara. That is why I write what I do. We are so deeply affected by those words but most don’t really read or understand them. I feel they fade into our unconscious so it becomes hard to root this ugliness out of our lives. UNholy book – haha and amen

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A few years ago I participated in a lunchtime study session with a respected rabbi (male, “modern” orthodox) in the Los Angeles area. The issue of needing two male witnesses to convict in a rape case arose. I questioned the rabbi’s seemingly casual acceptance of this rule. “Of course,” he said. “Should a woman alone accuse a man, his life could be ruined forever.” Yes, HIS life; not hers. All of the vile assumptions in that statement astounded me: Women could not be trusted to speak truth; the woman’s life wasn’t important; it didn’t happen if it wasn’t witnessed by two MEN who were willing to speak up. That this attitude has permeated our justice system for centuries seems obvious, and disgusting. No wonder our young women still weep when speaking with a judge; they know the odds of getting justice, they know how society sees them.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Love this Janet, and yes, we must change the narrative – this evil – and I do use the word deliberately – has poisoned the minds and bodies of women for so long – rape as normal is the international story – regardless of the religion involved (unless it’s earth based). I love your essays. They are so well written and such a pleasure to read. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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