What if a Woman Wrote Portions of the Holy Scripture?

Marie-Denise Villers, Young Woman Drawing, 180...
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I grew up thinking that only a man had written the Holy Scriptures and therefore, I felt pretty comfortable reading them. I mean, honestly, when would a woman have time to write, or learn to write, when she was busy in the kitchen? But, what if, come to find out (and it would be impossible to prove, I think) that a woman had a hand in writing the text? Would it change your or my perception of the text? For many, I think it would. I think that for some, Scripture would no longer be Scripture because a woman had dared to write the Holy Text. The article below is about a painting (to the right) of a woman drawing. For the longest, a man was thought to have painted it and during this time, it was a master piece, but when a woman was thought to have painted it, it became amateurish.

What if a woman is behind some of the Psalms? Or even some of the other unnamed parts of Scripture? Even… Matthew or Mark or Timothy?

“Are masculine and feminine concepts fair game for either gender? And does the content or materials of our artwork have a ‘gender’?” asks M. H. Elcin, one of the artists in the show whose gender is currently hidden by the use of initials. “Although we don’t expect definitive answers to these questions, we hope this exhibition helps us start a dialogue with each other and our audience about gender equality and art.” Elcin may be one of the 13 female artists exhibiting who have each invited a male artist to exhibit with her. Results will be posted on the museum’s website on May 7th. Results will also be e-mailed to voters along with the actual genders of the artists, thus setting the stage for even more debate.

via Identity Theft: Seeing or Not Seeing Gender in Art | Picture This | Big Think.

Do we still perceive the work of women some how inferior to men?

HT to Dr. Gayle via facebook.

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23 Replies to “What if a Woman Wrote Portions of the Holy Scripture?”

      1. There’s a good chance Paul’s letters were done by scribes.

        Jesus left no book of His own.

        God however, made a Bible.

        Also, for every 1 Cor 14:34-35, there are the implications of 1 Cor 11:5, which also has less textaul baggage with it.

  1. Despite the traditional authorships assigned to books, great gobs of scripture are (internally anonymous). For starters, there’s the Pentateuch, the gospels, a lot of the Psalms (maybe all of Psalms?), Job, etc. etc.

    Given the extremely scant authorship information we’re given in the Bible, I’m inclined to think it’s not the exact human authorship that matters, but the inherent authority the text carries — what other text is there like the Bible, which spawned Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Mormonism, etc. etc.?

    If a woman happened to have some role in writing some of the stuff, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Female intellectuals are not utterly unknown in ancient times.

    1. Mitchell,
      Until the end of the previous century, women intellectuals in the history of rhetoric were completely unknown. It’s taken feminist scholars in the field to uncover and to recover women rhetors and writers in what was a male-only record.

      Similarly, women authors through the centuries have had to assume male or non-female pen names. These are some we know about:

      N.E. Bode for Julianna Baggott
      J.K. Rowling for Joanne Rowling
      Ellis, Acton, and Currer Bell for the Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne)
      James Tiptree, Jr. for Alice Bradley Sheldon
      J.D. Robb for Nora Roberts
      George Eliot for Mary Ann Evans
      Andy Stack for Ann Rule
      A.M. Barnard for Louisa May Alcott
      George Sand for Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin Dudevant
      Isak Dinesen for Karen Blixen
      Ernst Ahlgren for Victoria Benedictsson
      Robin Hobb for Astrid Lindholm Ogden
      D.C. Fontana for Dorothy Catherine Fontana
      K.A. Applegate for Katherine Alice Applegate
      S.E. Hinton for Susan Eloise Hinton

      J. K. Gayle is a man. I am this person. However, when I first started blogging at Aristotle’s Feminist Subject, many thought I was a woman. Some said it was my family name Gayle, some said it was like J.K. Rowling, who was out as a woman by then, and some said it was that I posted feminist posts. But the fact is, whenever the persons thinking I was a woman learned that I was a man, their writing changed. Often, they coddled me and found me cute as a woman; then they roughed me up and were more agonistic thinking of me as a man. There have been other reversals too. Some who first despised me as a woman were more willing to talk with me online as a man.

      So I think there’s a long history here of silencing women authors, just because their bodies are sexed female.

      1. Very true, Dr. Gayle.

        As an exercise, it would be interesting to read 1st Timothy with a feminine voice in the background, especially the 2nd chapter, verse 12 or so.

        1. So true, Mr. Watts. And can you imagine Timothy blushing as mother Eunice read Paul’s letter aloud to him in the presence of grandma Lois? “Now just who have you been hanging around so much, young man?” she might stop, to ask, after reading said verse.

          1. So very true indeed. My position still standeth, however, that if some/many people perceived a feminine hand in the composition of Scripture, they would view such sections as inferior.

  2. I must admit, Mr. Gayle, that I generally thought of you as female when reading you. It’s a pity that women generally have to conceal their identity. I will admit that I often find it hard to stomach the writings of self-proclaimed feminists, particularly if they are saying things that sound like an attack on logic and argumentation as though those styles of thought were somehow ‘masculine’ and oppressive by nature.

    1. Mr. Powell,
      It’s a pity that women live in our society where we compel them to join in in male ways (whether that’s with man-pen names or by using masculinist forms of writing). It’s not only the shrill feminists who find logic to be limiting. Sir Philip Sidney, for example, wrote Defense of Poesy in order to get others to see that argumentation cannot and should not be the only forms of, well, expression and persuasive communication. Then he went on to translate the Psalms as poetry (which his sister the Countess of Pembroke went on to finish after his death, excelling in wonderful ways of note). Likewise, Mr. Michel de Montaigne, by his language, “invented, or perhaps renewed, a mode open and flexible enough to enable the feminine inscription of human experience as no other does.” This according to Nancy Mairs, who studies his works and notes how sexist he can be nonetheless. The point is that Montaigne’s conception of the essay was nothing like the very stark and reductionist essay form, the logical form, of a man such as Francis Bacon.

      So it’s not just that men write, it’s how many men use limited language to write, and it’s that much of what we find of women (say in the Bible) is written from the man’s view by the man’s means of viewing. This is a simple way to say the problem. But of course it is complex.

      When Mary Beard writes an essay to ask “The Classic Woman?” how must she answer? Well here’s a bit: “… implications of that male authorship: ancient literature is not evidence for women’s lives in antiquity; it is a series of representations of women, by men; and we cannot hope to understand what it is saying, unless we reflect on who is speaking, to whom, in what context and why.”


      (And yes, of course, shame on self-proclaimed feminists who are bullies! And it was self-proclaimed Christians who were bullies that made Gandhi more interested in Jesus and in his non-agonistic methods than in Christianity itself. Shame on them all.)

      1. The word ‘sexist’ is also problematic for me. If I think, for example, that men might be more likely to have a high aptitude for mathematics, does that make me a sexist? I fear sometimes that the ists we construct might force us to close our eyes to what’s going on around us rather than, as they ought, force us to drop our unjustified prejudice. Logic is indeed only a tool which can take us so far — my complaint is not against those who find logic limiting, but against those self-proclaimed feminists who think it is distinctly male. Not only does this constitute an unfair attack on logic, it also makes women sound stupid.

        Bacon, if I remember right, died of a sickness brought on by playing with a dead chicken. That itself should be a reminder of where fanatical devotion to the scientific method may lead one.

        Shame on all the bullies! And may the shame we wish for them lead to their rapid rehabilitation as productive dialogue-makers.

        1. How is it that you, on the one hand, reserve the right to consider yourself smart to think that “men might be more likely to have a high aptitude for mathematics”

          when, on the other hand, you won’t let women (especially self-identifying feminist ones) think that “logic and argumentation … were somehow ‘masculine’ ” lest they sound stupid?

          I’m just trying to follow your logic here. But I do get your last two statements about Bacon, chickens, and rehab above.

          1. Forgive my awful wording. The first bit about math was not me asserting that men are more likely, but just that I’d rather not see the question closed off. That is, the last thing I want is a dogmatic anti-sexism that declares such questions off-limits altogether.

            On the opposite extreme, I have read at least one woman writer (I said ‘self-proclaimed’ because I don’t know enough to judge what a ‘feminist’ is) who spoke as though logic is by nature patriarchal and anti-woman, and placed supreme emphasis on intuition above all. To say that logic always favors men, though the statement may be well-intentioned well intentioned, strikes me as an insult to women.

            Am I expressing myself more clearly? And if so, does what I’m expressing make any sense?

          2. Mitchell, Thanks for your humility and your clarity and your insistence on our all taking a stance of openness in these things. Three great qualities. So, yes, you make perfect sense; I value our important conversation!

  3. Joel; I don’t think there is any difference to someone uttering scripture and someone speaking it.

    The amazing thing about the women who found the empty tomb and met Jesus first is that they were women and become the first evangelists in testifying of his resurrection.

    Come to think of it; this raises some deeper issues. What is more important – who wrote the scripture.. or what is the scripture saying and therefore the narrative its self is more important than the recording is.

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