So, what’s a woman good for anyway? (Part #2)
Note: Start reading at part #1 if you expect this to make any sense at all…
God said it and I believe it and that settles it for me
God said it and I believe it and that settles it for me
Though some may doubt that His word is true
I’ve chosen to believe it, now how about you?
God said it and I believe it
And that settles it for me
If we are going to ever approach understanding what Scripture is actually presenting about women, then the starting point is trying to understand how to understand Scripture. The trouble is, so few ever bother to try…
The above would be far better rewritten as follows:
The Holy Spirit inspired it
Some monk in 1611 paraphrased based on his theological perspective at the time
I blindly take the current English words and try to act as I get it
Then I close my mind and refuse any further information about it.
One of the most striking things I found in the language studies class in seminary was how much even all of our current translations are really paraphrases or interpretations. The translators work from their own presuppositions, their cultural beliefs and the theological view their blinders tell them is the only meaning as they attempt to translate a dead language no one is even any longer capable of speaking. If that were the only issue, this would still be a problem. Unfortunately, any sort of literature is a combination of far more than just words. It is loaded with metaphor, allusion, narrative, and simile that increase the complexity by an order of magnitude.
Then, to add insult to injury, we have cultural issues — such as the Hebrew tendency to regard metaphor as a more literal then direct statement. (Metaphor is also effectively used as a direct statement even in our world today — but, when translators are involved and they just do not get that it is such, so much can VERY easily be lost…) The very minimum understanding of Scripture has to start from how we even get a meaning of the words we claim to be translating.
When translating a dead language, all we have is parallel usage of words. Let’s just start with an incredibly simple, easy and anthropologically consistent set of terms to understand how difficult it is to effectively use parallel words to grasp meaning.
Let’s say someone ten thousand years from now would dig up our culture and try to understand our dead language’s terms for sex. First, they would make a list from terms used to describe the act:
Make love to.
Have sex with.
Of course, that leaves them with nothing. So, then they need to define a context for each of the words. First, they would start to look at who said the words and note that, ‘F^^k’ is never used by people of noble birth in ceremonial speech while ‘Ravish’ is and conclude that, ‘F^^k’ must be gutter language and beneath them to use.
Then they would look at immediately surrounding words and see that ‘Make love to…” is never followed by ‘that slut,’ while the term, ‘F^^k’ could easily be followed by such and conclude that the terms describe more or less contemptuous, aggressive or exploitative types of sex as, “That slut,’ is obviously a harsh pejorative.
But, then they would be forced to deal with an erotic story written by a woman who, seemingly in the context of a deeply intimate relationship, would pant or cry out for her partner to, ‘F^^k me, baby,’ and have to wonder if the term can be used different ways. So, then they would have to add up the times this usage occurs and decide if it is anomalous or not.
Entire schools of scholarship could spring up as to whether these women had accepted and eroticized their lot in life as rape victims or if the word had two meanings. (For that matter, they could even find feminists right now who would buy into the former school of thought…) Or, perhaps she was actually mocking/parodying him by calling him a ‘Baby?’
Certain schools of thought would then get control of the translation/publication process (like the Roman Catholic Church did for centuries) and their views on the meanings (Member of a rape aggrandizing culture) and usages of words (Eroticised her victimization), as well as the symbolism (Contemptuous and violent sex is normalized) worthy of colouring the core messages, would become so accepted that later translators would have to fight very hard to have their work accepted if it deviated from such too much (She craved forceful sex from a man who loved her).
Metaphor is then even further removed from the core figuring on what words mean and generally considered to be taboo by those who pride themselves on the purity of translation (Which is really just interpretation anyway — but with blinders on) and be relegated to sermons and treated as speculation.
Meanwhile, if you went on the web and read that erotic story, as a member of this culture, you would know in seconds whether ‘F^^k me, baby,’ was about exploitative sex or loving passionate sex because you understand the context.
And, this is the EASY example. Sex is a simple historically consistent physical act that, as long as the translator was human, would be easily understood. The difficulty involved in translating it is nearly insignificant when compared to the task of understanding the place of an entire gender in culture. Even just 2000yrs later, we have to work at that one — and hard.
If we are to start on the task of understanding what Scripture is actually up to, then we at least are going to have to find a way to get beyond our simplistic understandings of the words used to the ideas actually being communicated. Then, we are going to have to fit that understanding into a larger picture of those ideas through history and dig further to the meanings of those ideas within a cultural system that is totally alien to our own.
The above task is staggering in and of itself — and made even more monumental by the reality that the years of translatory paraphrase have not always come from an unbiased attempt at a pure scholarship. Sometimes, the work literally reeks of bias…
(See the monk that divided first Peter 2 and 3 right in the middle of an argument for the heightened status of women so his beliefs about their place could be upheld or his predecessor who translated a Greek word that only implied rank in a military context into the word, “Submission,” instead of something more along the lines of, “Pour all of yourself out.”)
If 52% of the human race, made in the image of God, is being taught by the translation of the Word of God that they occupy a place of shame and insignificance while needing their toxic influence to be contained in the name of modesty and their own good, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at the integrity of the translators because that simply doesn’t make sense…