Volume. XIX, No. 21
Sunday, 05 December 2004

From the pastors heart: Women and their roles in the Da Vinci Code

This week I am going to touch on a very controversial issue on women and feminism. Of course, my approach will not be one of sexists’. There are people who argue that Jesus was a feminist (or Da Vinci Code says that He was “the original feminist” in page 248). Such portray is not a new development, but old one. I’ll quote a paragraph from Naomi Harris Rosenblatt’s recent article, “Sisters in Strength: The Women of the Hebrew Bible Stand up to Their Men,” in U.S. News and World Report’s Special Collector’s Edition in November this year. It reflects a feminist’s view of women in the Bible.

“Then we think of the women of the Hebrew Bible, we typically think of them as the lesser half of a famous couple: Sarah, Rebecca, and Bathsheba are but a few of the women who stand in the shadow of the men with whom they are linked in the Scriptures. Their low profile is no doubt the result of a lack of attention from male biblical commentators, who for thousands of years have devoted their intellectual energies to the likes of Abraham, Isaac, and David. As a result, the impressions we hold of the Bible’s women are often framed in the simplistic terms of a folk tale: Sarah, the heroic mother of the Jewish people; Rebecca, her daughter-in-law , whom some call the “deceiver” for misleading Isaac into bestowing his blessings upon Jacob instead of his firstborn twin brother, Esau; Bathsheba, David’s alluring lover. But these ancient women are a complicated-and unpredictable-band of sisters. Most of them defy male authority when they perceive it as used unjustly. Some go so far as to subvert it as they seek to ensure that their people’s traditions and their families survive. Even more surprising is the fact that the women of the Bible are almost always rewarded for taking their destiny into their own hands. Among biblical women, only the ruthless Jezebel is punished for her defiant actions . . . . The first in the compelling gallery of women is, of course, the first woman: Eve, the archetypal; female. Eve is blamed for being the seductress, for acting in an underhanded way, for brining misery into the world. On the contrary, I see Eve as the great trailblazer, a daring risk-taker who leads humanity from childlike innocence towards an adult life of plate for many of the women who follow her. Indeed, a loving and omniscient God would have known that Eve, because of her inborn drive to create new life, would be the one to reach out to the tree . . . .”

I do agree with her that we need to pay more attention to the women in the Bible. It is true that we tend to care about stories of all the patriarchs. However, it is not a desirable way to see the Scriptures from male-female conflict point of view. It is true that less spaces given to the female characters in the commentaries are not the result of intentional negligence of male commentators. The Bible is not the history of males or females, but the history of God’s redemption. Therefore, Biblical materials are only selective to reveal God’s redemption to the fallen mankind. It is off from the focus of God’s purpose, if we begin to read the Bible from sexist’s point of view. Even the stories of Jesus are not completely written. John 21:25 says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” In a word, there are dangers if we begin to read the Bible from our interest point of view. Naomi went too far to paint Eve and her sin in the Garden of Eden as a very courageous act to liberate her own destiny and to make humanity grow from childlike innocence to adult life.

Karen King said in her book, The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle, that traditional and orthodox teachings of Christian Churches (master story) have only poor history. One of her basic reasons is that “the roles of women . . . are almost completely submerged from view. In the master story, the male Jesus selects male disciples who pass on tradition to male bishops.” She sees the history of Biblical heritage as a class struggle between male and females, in my view. She says, “Moreover, the use of terms like ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ immediately designates who were the winners and losers, but in practice ‘heresy’ can only be identified by hindsight, instituting the norms of a later age as the standard for an earlier period.” When she evaluates a Gnostic book, the Gospel of Mary, she says, “The apostles were considered to be the guarantors of the true teaching of the church, and male bishops continued to be their sole legitimate successors. This male model of discipleship also provided (and continues to provide) a rationale for the exclusion of women from leadership roles, ignoring the presence of women disciples through Jesus’ ministry, at the crucifixion, and as the first witnesses to the resurrection” (p. 167). She even said, “To be sure, its [The Gospel of Mary’s] position on women’s leadership is no doubt a factor to its being labeled heresy” (p. 171). The criterion she uses to make a distinction between orthodox and heterodox is whether a group receives female leadership or not. She appeals to Gnostic writings to support her view. However, we saw last week that The Gospel of Thomas would not help her assumption.

The Bible does not suppress the woman’s roles. Martha and Mary were faithful disciples of Jesus in Luke 10:38-42. There were women like Susanna, Mary Magdalene, and Joanna as supporters and companions in Luke 8:1-3. Priscilla taught Apollos with her husband Aquila. It is also true that the four virgin daughters of Philip were prophets. However, male leadership by twelve apostles was not an invention of later days by church authorities, as some have claimed. It seems that there were some limitations in women’s role in early churches. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:33-36; and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 are some of examples. It is also true that the pastoral epistles appear to limit the role of elders to men.

In conclusion, I must say that it is dangerous for us to read and interpret the Bible from one segment of humanity’s point of view. The Bible does not promote any one particular race, social class, or gender. However, it should not be understood that there are no limits and qualifications to the roles in the Bible. Not all men were called to be Levites who were priests. It was only one of twelve tribes called for the priestly duties. Not all Levites were called to be priests, but only Aaron’s descendants. God calls different individuals for different tasks and responsibilities. Thus, it is not desirable to promote certain views that the Bible does not present. One of the problems of feminists’ groups is that they appeal to non-biblical materials and that they regard them as more reliable sources than Biblical records. Whoever we are, we are called to serve according to His guidelines.


Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question 79: Which is the tenth commandment? The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Please pray for healing for Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, & Rev Peter Clements & ; Sisters Myung Ki, Aranka Rejtoe (Hampstead Hospital) & Susan Varadi “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength” (Psalm 18:1). Warm Greetings from Rev & Mrs Edward Paauwe (BPCWA, Perth) to all Hopefuls.

Please pray for - journey mercies for Bros Eu Jzin Tan (S’pore) & John Wong (Brisbane); Sisters Sophine Bai (Sydney), Aunty Sheela & Shilsa (Bangalore), Julie Tan (Adelaide), Maureen Tan, Quin, Catherine and Grace (NSW, Adel); Missionaries - Rev & Mrs Stephen Choi (Phnom Penh), Rev & Mrs Moses Hahn and Rev & Mrs David Koo (Sihanoukville), Khmer pastors and believers in Cambodia; Bro Hai Seng Lim - Sketch N’ Tell ministry in Sibu, Sarawak; Missions Team’s preparation to Cambodia in Jan 10-31; Young Adults’ B-P Camp in Sydney next week; Preparations for the Christmas Concert 2004.

Praise and thank God for - journey mercies granted to Pastor Ki, Bro David Paauwe (Adel), Sisters Sophine Bai, Serene Wong (Adelaide), Amanda Fu (S’pore), Julie Tan (Melb), Wendy Wong (Sydney); Successful YAF dinner on Friday; & all who had invited Elder & Mrs Khoo for meals.

Christmas Concert: NEXT WEEK Saturday, 11 Dec, at Concordia Chapel. Invites on the literature table. Helpers needed for the night - please see Dn David Yeo.

Sunday School Christmas Party on 18 Dec at 2pm. Helpers required. Please notify Dn Edwin D’Mello if you can help. Invites on the literature table.

Hospitality Roster: Please invite Elder & Mrs Khoo for meals and make them feel welcome.

Looking Ahead: Christmas Service on 25 December, 10 am. Please invite your friends.

Looking Ahead: Watchnight Service on 31 December, 7 pm.



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