Tuesday, 31 July 2012

If you believe that the bible is the divinely inspired "word of god"

then, what do you do about "prophetic pornography"?

The prophets, Hosea, Ezekiel, & Jeremiah, contain images of rape, sexual mutilation, gang rape, etc. imposed as punishments by the god of Israel (as the male) on the people of Israel/Zion/Jerusalem (as the female(s)). The god punishes his wives (!) - just go read it all.

So how are these passages supposed to be read in the modern world? This is a question that has been asked by feminist biblical scholars and needs to continue to be asked, again and again. As a feminist not embedded in the belief that the bible is the "inspired word of god", this is fairly easy. The texts are an indication of a patriarchal societal structure that devalues women and feels that they are fair game. They smack of misogyny.

These are the sort of texts that should perhaps be best left in their original languages. This would be similar to the authorized edition of the Church Fathers (pre-Nicene, Nicene & post-Nicene), that left all the "spicy" bits in Latin while the rest was translated. Look for any pre-1950 edition or so.

At the conference where I presented last week, I was told that you need to put all of these passages in their cultural context. That is all well and good, but I asked the man who was insisting that sociocultural context is the answer, what about preaching? Then I was told that you tell your congregation that this is how women were treated in the past, and we don't do this anymore. I say "Bravo". But is that good enough?

For example, it doesn't answer the question about divine inspiration and the privileging of the Bible as normative for the belief system. Were these prophets only divinely inspired when they say acceptable things? It is the conceit of prophecy that the divine is speaking through them & what kind of a divinity would use these images? What about the men and women who read these texts as "divinely inspired"? How does it affect them? Just something to think about.

A couple of places from which to start reading

Book & article to read:

Yvonne Sherwood, The Prostitute and the Prophet: Reading Hosea in the Late Twentieth Century  (T&:T Clark/Continuum, 2004; 2nd edition ).

Cheryl Exum, "The Ethics of Biblical Violence against Women" in The Bible in Ethics: The Second Sheffield Colloquium (Sheffield Academic Press, 1995).

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