By Loren Seibold | 22 December 2018 |
A few months ago I had the privilege of being at the cutting edge of a new discovery in biblical theology. I realized that I had always—erroneously, it turns out—assumed that when the Bible uses the word “man” or the male pronoun, it refers to both men and women. But the endless discussions in my denomination about ordaining women made me realize I must have been mistaken. I now know that the Bible means precisely who it says when it uses gendered language. As I said in my explosive first article on the subject, when you apply a fully-gendered hermeneutic, gender comes first.
This is only logical. You don’t ask men to take to heart verses about motherhood or breast-feeding, do you? Would you tell a man he was saved through childbearing? (1 Timothy 5:14). Of course not. So why should women be subject to injunctions that are clearly identified as applying to men?
I’ve always wanted to be at the avant-garde of a new movement, the leading edge of religious thought, but until now that distinction has eluded me. This discovery will be, I suspect, my legacy after I’m dead and gone—which will be sooner than I’d like if some people’s wishes become reality.
I asked my readers to join me in exploring this new way of reading the Bible, and some of them came through.
Matthew 4:4, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Laurel Smith Rogers wrote, “I’m thinking, wow, I guess I can live on bread alone!” This is a brilliant discovery, Laurel. Set aside concerns about gluten, carbs, and well-balanced nutrition. Women, it seems, are capable of being totally panivorous, a privilege not granted to men.
When I ran this idea by some women of my acquaintance, they saw the logic of it (even with their, according to Doug Batchelor, inferior IQs), but quickly began to whine and complain—which as women they have a tendency to do, bless their dear little hearts.
“But why should I want to live on bread alone?” one protested. “It would be boring. Can we at least put something on the bread?” I didn’t find in the text anything prohibiting honey, peanut butter, vegetarian luncheon meat, or even Vegemite, but to be certain I should check with someone who knows the Greek for Vegemite.
As for “every word that comes from the mouth of God,” I doubt those are prohibited to you women, but it may be unnecessary to involve yourself with such things. Be a Martha: turn your attention to babies and baking and knitting and all those things that God has designed you for.
Hebrews 9:27: “It is appointed to man once to die, and then the judgment.”
The meaning of this text isn’t right on the surface; it requires a man to explain it, so you’re lucky I’m available. Inasmuch as women do die, I’m here suggesting that it is the appointment for death that differs between women and men. My death is apparently listed as a reminder in God’s iPhone. But you women? Yours aren’t.
Why the difference, I’m not absolutely certain—but being a man, that won’t stop me from telling you anyway. Perhaps women aren’t as responsible for their own salvation as we men are for ours, so can be taken at any time without risk to their eternal salvation. Please note that only men come under divine judgment here, not women, so is it possible that women get a pass on the final judgment? If so, I’m envious. But really, it’s only fair, given the IQ deficiency.
A woman of my acquaintance with intellectual pretensions noticed the word “once,” and theorized that this might have reference to Revelation 21:8’s second death. Maybe, she suggested, only men die once, but women will be resurrected a second time to assail the Holy City as described in Revelation 20:7-9.
It was a good effort, especially for a woman, but wrong. Proof: those coming forth in that second resurrection are going to try to attack a city whose walls are 1400 miles high. Only men could be that dumb.
Testosterone is a terrible thing, ladies. Be glad you’re not marinating in it like we are.
Psalm 8:4-5 “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.”
My fully-gendered hermeneutic throws this passage wide-open for speculation. If there are doubts about man’s worthiness for God’s mindfulness, where does that put woman? Thanks to Eve and St. Paul, Christians have held that women are less than men in God’s sight. But it doesn’t say that, does it? If men are a little lower than the angels, are women a little above or a little below that? Closer to the angels, or farther away? Think carefully before you answer.
James 5:16: “The prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Thanks to Kris Widmer for bringing this text to my attention. My grandmother always prayed for me. It is only now that I realize that her prayers weren’t worth much—she being, after all, a righteous woman, not a righteous man. I don’t know if my grandfather ever prayed for me, but if he did, his prayers must have had clout.
My advice, women, is that you write down your prayer requests and hand the list to a righteous man. He will roll back in his BarcaLounger, close his eyes and pray, and let you get on with vacuuming the rugs.
John 1:12 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
This is as good a time as any to say that we should reject out of hand those abominable Bible translators who change “men” to “people” or “he” to “they” or “sons” to “children.” We must keep gender intact in our Bible study, or the whole business falls apart. In this case, you can only be a son of God by receiving Jesus, not a daughter. All I can say, women, is, I’m sorry—I didn’t write it.
Finally, I am expanding my fully-gendered hermeneutic to extra-biblical writings. Education, p. 57 “The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.
Clearly, we need men like this. It was true when the Southern Home Journal published it in 1869, true when the Review and Herald adapted it in 1871 and 1881, and true when Ellen White was inspired to write it for the book Education in 1903. I don’t argue with a bit of it.
But again, I grew up thinking this passage was about men of, uh, both sexes. But now I see that specifically means male men, not so-called “mankind.” Either we don’t need women like this, or (more likely) we can assume women know much of this stuff intuitively and don’t need it all spelled out for them.
We men don’t do well without clear instructions. Perhaps Ellen saw James try to put an Ikea flat pack together without reading the directions. From this she realized she had to be very deliberate and specific in her instructions to men, even instructions for how to live a Christian life. She carefully targeted this advice specifically to men, and hoped we’d pay attention.
Which some of us have, though there will still be enough of us who didn’t who will scramble up out of the dirt in that second resurrection and try to attack a city whose walls are 1400 miles high.
I hope in this short piece I’ve helped the Seventh-day Adventist Church on its way to adopting my fully-gendered hermeneutic as a standard for all of our Bible study. And if I’ve managed to put to rest the anxieties of some of you sweet little gals, all the better.
Loren Seibold is a pastor, and the Executive Editor of Adventist Today.