Feminists Release Commentaries on Bible Passages to ‘Emancipate’ Women From ‘Lingering Patriarchal Readings’

GENEVA — A group of 20 female theologians from around the world have released a book of commentaries about Scriptures that pertain to women in an effort to tackle what they call “the lingering patriarchal readings that have justified numerous restrictions and bans on women.”

“Une Bible des Femmes,” or “The Women’s Bible”, was published in October, but just recently was brought to light. It is the work of nearly two dozen female theologians from countries such as Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany and Africa. While it’s not an actual Bible, it does provide commentary on various biblical passages from a feminist viewpoint.

“We are fighting against a literal reading of the texts,” Elisabeth Parmentier, a professor at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, told the Agence France Presse (AFP).

Among the issues that Parmentier and the others take with how the Bible is understood concerning women include the teachings written by the apostle Paul. She said that his statements shouldn’t be considered as instructions for modern times.

“It’s like taking a letter someone sends to give advice as being valid for all eternity,” Parmentier remarked.

She also pointed to the book of Luke, in which Jesus visits the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Martha, becoming “cumbered about much serving,” called out to Jesus and said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.”

“It says that Martha ensures the ‘service,’ which has been interpreted to mean that she served the food, but the Greek word ‘diakonia’ can also have other meanings. For instance, it could mean she was a deacon,” Parmentier claimed.

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Lauriane Savoy, who was also one of the women behind the project, pointed to references to Mary Magdalene in the Bible.

“She stood by Jesus, including as He was dying on the cross, when all of the male disciples were afraid. She was the first one to go to His tomb and to discover His resurrection,” Savoy told France 24. “This is a fundamental character, but she is described as a prostitute who was at the feet of Jesus, perhaps even as Jesus’s lover in recent fiction.”

The Scriptures actually state that Jesus had cast “seven devils” out of Mary Magdalene, not that she was a prostitute (Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2). In John 12, it says that the Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, not Mary of Magdala.

Parmentier and Savoy opine that the Bible does not conflict with feminist ideology, and want to show others how they believe the Scriptures are to be understood—or as the book description states, “how Bible texts can be read fresh.”

“While some say that you have to throw out the Bible to be a feminist, we believe the opposite,” Parmentier said.

“What has been problematic through the ages is that the texts have been [used] in order to submit women to men—and this is not the aim of the biblical witness,” she also told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Jesus Christ did not silence women. He talked with women and took them seriously. This should be our key for interpretation: What is the ‘good news’ of the gospel?”

Parmentier further told the outlet, “Emancipation for women is the freedom to live as a person, not as a rule; the freedom to choose what is the ‘best part,’ not to conform to norms. We want to empower women and men to live who they are, in confidence to their vocation as Christians, and we transmit the message that the biblical texts are not a hindrance to this freedom to become who we are called to become: fully human.”

Titus 2:1-5 states, “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

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