"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jesus & Women

February!!!!!!!!!! Wow, this year is passing quickly! A year ago today we visited the mall in Damascus, Cham City Center, and met Samer's mom, sister and twin brother for lunch there. Such lovely memories from that time in our lives.

I have greatly enjoyed Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey. Yesterday I read in the section on Jesus and his treatment of women. In the introduction the author shared how the rabbis thought of women during this time by quoting from "the writings of Ben Sirach the aristocratic scholar of Jerusalem who lived and wrote in the early second century B.C." (pg. 189). A couple gems from this creep, "a daughter was a total loss and constant potential source of shame," "there is no discussion of women apart from their relationship to men" and Ben Sirach writes,

Do not sit down with the women;
for moth comes out of clothes,
and a woman's spite out of a woman.
A man's spite is preferable to a woman's kindness;
Women give rise to shame and reproach. (Sir 42:12-14)

I think today's Islamic scholars get more of their thoughts on shameful women and are influenced more than they think from intolerant Jewish men of past centuries! Not as much mention of shameful men, eh? Yeah, well, prostitutes wouldn't have business if it weren't for MEN in the world. But somehow it's fine for men to be immoral, part of being a man, whereas for women it's shameful and slut-worthy. Grrrr, don't get me started.

This was supposed to be a nice post about Jesus dealing with the woman at the well and something that took my attention from this chapter.

Remember when Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water? The author writes, "Jesus so totally humbles himself that he needs her services. Jesus does not establish his initial relationship with her by explaining how she needs him and his message. That will come later. Rather his opening line means, 'I am weak and need help! Can you help me?'"

The author then quotes Sri Lankan theologian Daniel T. Niles as he writes about Jesus:

"He was a true servant because He was at the mercy of those whom He came to serve. . . . This weakness of Jesus, we His disciples must share. To serve from a position of power is not true service but beneficence."

Both Niles and Bailey then explain that often the Christians will bring in hospitals, schools, orphanages, agricultural farms and so forth, and while those are good we don't realize they are also sources of jealousy, fear and sometimes suspicion by the native peoples. Also westerners go into other lands with their great technology "which often is the point of our greatest strength and often reflects the developing world's greatest weakness. This tends to stimulate pride in the giver and humiliation in the receiver." (pg. 204)

Bailey claims "Jesus understands profoundly the need to be a receiver." Remember Jesus asked Peter for his boating skills when Jesus used a boat as a platform for his preaching in Luke 5. And here he asks this woman for a drink of water.

D.T. Niles believes, "The only way to build love between two people or two groups of people is to be so related to each other as to stand in need of each other. The Christian community must serve. It must also be in a position where it needs to be served."

Also Jesus elevated this woman's self worth and dignity by asking to drink from her bucket. Jewish men did not speak to women, much less Samaritan women. These two groups hated each other and Jews considered Samaritans unclean. But Jesus knew defilement came from within, not from drinking from someone's water cup or going to their house (e.g. Jesus invited himself to the "unclean" Zacchaeus' house to stay the night and brought salvation to Zacchaeus' house!).

The more I read in this book, the more I am reminded why Jesus is superior to all who ever walked this earth and why he alone is worthy to follow.


Wrestling With Religion said...

The book I'm reading says that several wealthy women supported the early Christians in their missions, including Jesus and his disciples. Jesus also had women followers, they may not have travelled extensively around Galilee with him because that would have been unseemly, but they accompanied him to Jerusalem. I don't get the impression it was completely unheard of by that time, thankfully, but it was nice to read.

I also love the idea of Jesus admitting to being in need of people. There is something so humble about that. It really endears you to people.

Susanne said...

Yeah, there was much more said about Jesus and women including what you said about women followers! I only touched on a small thing yesterday because it was really new to me. Did you find this true when you went on your trip to Africa? I discussed it with my Arab friend and he thought it was really true. (The part about the West/Christians coming into areas with all this stuff and the natives feeling some humiliation, etc.) I'd never considered this before so it was a learning thing for me and makes a lot of sense.

Thanks for your comment as always. :)

Wrestling With Religion said...

Oh, totally. I don't even like the idea of "voluntary work" any more because it really does glorify the volunteer (who is there at least partly for their own benefit anyway). I like the idea of westerners going to those places with the open intention to LEARN something. And there is plenty we could learn there that we can't learn in the west. :)

Susanne said...

Thanks for confirming that. It makes SO MUCH sense. I'm glad this book addressed this topic.

I agree that there is so much to learn no matter where we go. Even if we are from the Big Bad West with all our technology, we can learn from other cultures. And I love that! I enjoy the differences. :)

Thanks for the follow-up reply!

Amber said...

Just because I'm me, I looked up the Wisdom of Sirach in my Bible. ('Cause it's in mine...)

Here's my translation (with the notes):

12. Do not look upon anyone for beauty
and do not sit in the midst of women
13. For a moth comes out of garments,
And the evil of a woman comes from a woman.+
14. The evil of a man is better
Than a woman who does what is good,
Yet brings shame and disgrace.+

+42:13 - Moth larvae are hatched from eggs laid by moths in the fabric of garments. The analogy is that wickedness comes from within the heart, as Christ taught (Mt 15:19). Ben Sirach had in mind the fall of Eve, thus sin from a woman.

+42:14 - There is a subtle contrast here that can easily be missed. Whereas the churlish baseness of evil male conduct can be vulgar and obscene, the flirtatious seductiveness of a woman can lead to the more serious sins of fornication or adultery.

Susanne said...

Amber, thanks for that! The author had stuff from this guy noted, but not the entirety like you did. I appreciate you copying that for me. It seems Kenneth Bailey didn't care for Ben Sirach's characterization of women from the way he presented him. :)

Angela said...

(((hugs)) thanks for stopping by sweetie. I know you know I've been praying for your requests since you get my devotionals in your inbox..Just wanted to let you know I recall them even during the week..God brings them to mind...

Susanne said...

Amber, so is Sirach some saint in the Catholic/Orthodox churches? It seems you were coming to his defense. I am not familiar with him apart from what the author and you wrote. Maybe I'll google him now. :)

Angela, good to hear from you. Thanks so much for the prayers! :)

Susanne said...

OK, I looked him up. Interesting. Well, I don't care for his views of women. It's interesting how Sirach blames women so much whereas Paul seems to lay the responsibility on Adam in Romans 4:12-21. And, for sure Jesus was more pro-woman than Sirach. He even spoke to women in public *and* accepted a woman exposing her hair to Him and touching Him!!! Surely NOT acceptable rabbi behavior. No wonder Simon the Pharisee was shocked! :)

Suroor said...

"The more I read in this book, the more I am reminded why Jesus is superior to all who ever walked this earth and why he alone is worthy to follow."

I couldn't agree with you more! I wish all men were like Jesus. He made us know that goodness is not impossible.