Opinions on faith and life

Leading Women

2008-03-14

No, I’m not talking about acting, but I think it’s a telling sign of society’s prejudice to assume that meaning first. People, especially Christians, believe women must not be in high government positions, believing them to be unsuited for the pressures.

As if being a wife and mother involves no pressure! We’re “merely” teaching children how to walk, talk, relieve themselves, dress themselves, and be good citizens of tomorrow. No pressure. And there is no better training for diplomacy than settling disputes between siblings. But I digress.

I can already hear the male supremacists yelling (in their deepest manly voices), “The pressures of national government are too great for a woman.” Says who? Has it been tried? Yes, and successfully so, just not in this country. Have women done everything else men declared them unable to do? Yes, everything. Can women do worse in national government than men have done? I seriously doubt that.

But only now am I really reaching the point: that men have declared that the Bible says women cannot be national government leaders. I refer to the universally mistranslated Isaiah 3:12:

Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. My people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path. (TNIV)

Here is discussion on the verse by Bible scholar Dr. Katharine Bushnell:

621. I think we find another case of prejudiced translation in Isaiah 3:12. The word translated “children” in this verse in Isaiah, is a plural masculine participle of the verb “to glean,” “abuse,” “practice.” It is translated “glean” in Leviticus 19:10, Deuteronomy 24:21, Judges 20:45, and Jeremiah 6:9. The word has no translation such as “children” anywhere else in the Bible, and it occurs 21 times. Another word altogether is used for “children,” and “child,” in verses 4 and 5 of this same chapter; the sense seems to have been fixed by the supposed context, to correspond with “women.”

As to the word translated “women”: Two words, without the rabbinical vowel “points,” are exactly alike. One is pronounced nosh-im and the other na-shim. In appearance the only difference is a slight mark under the first letter of the Hebrew word na-shim. The first word means “exactors;” the one with a vowel mark under the initial letter means “women.” The entire decision, therefore, as to whether the word means one or the other depends upon OPTION. Those who pointed the word, evidently thought the nation could sink no lower than to pass under women rulers, and then translated the word “children” to match it. Commentators frequently call attention to the alternate reading. See Adam Clarke on the passage. The Septuagint translates: “As for my people, tax-gatherers (praktores) glean them, and exactors (apaitountes) rule over them.

622. There seems little in the context to support the translation “children” and “women.” But study the context as regards the other reading. After complaining of the “gleaners,” (that is, “tax-gatherers”) and “extortioners,” they are threatened in the following language: “The Lord standeth up to plead and standeth up to judge the people. The Lord will enter into judgement with the elders of His people, and the princes (”rulers,“ masculine, not feminine gender), thereof for ye have eaten up the vineyard (the conduct of extortionate tax-gatherers), and the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What mean ye that ye crush (R. V.) my people, and grind the faces of the poor?” Because of this context, we believe that OPTION took the wrong turn when it decided to translate this verse as it stands in our English version; and that this translation would have had a strong showing up of its sophistries, had educated women been on the last Revision Committee. (Source)

Gone in a few paragraphs is the sole proof text for the alleged divine wrath expressed in having women in national government’s top positions. And the Bible does show women as national leaders in good standing (Deborah, Huldah, Miriam). Excuses are offered but the fact remains that the Bible never says women can’t be national government leaders, or even that they shouldn’t be. But most importantly, it does not say that having a woman in such a position is a sign of God’s anger or judgment against a nation. And one only needs to look at how men have run governments to see that if God wanted to show his displeasure with a nation, if anything he’d surely choose a man.

Which is a telling commentary on the current presidential race in America. The fact that we have had a long string of charlatans in all three branches, with no viable alternatives having any chance at being elected, is surely a sign of God’s judgment against our nation. The people who get nominated by one of the two parties are sold out to those parties, not the people, and it matters not what a candidate’s gender or race is.

God looks on the heart, the character. To think God would turn from that and prefer an empty shell with the right “decoration” over a woman of depth and honor, would be to think God is shallow and petty and stupid. I think we should honor God by never attributing such things to him, and start looking on the heart.


A note to those eager to jump to conclusions: I most emphatically DO NOT endorse Hillary. I will never endorse anyone with such contempt for our constitution and our people. I also do not endorse any of the others. We need a Constitutionalist, not a Republican or a Democrat.
ADDED 7-10-08: Check out the LXX translation of Isaiah 3:1:
Behold now, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, will take away from Jerusalem and from Judea the mighty man and mighty woman, the strength of bread, and the strength of water,

6 Comments

Lin

Paula, I am astonished. Why has this not been fixed in the Lexicons?

It does make much more sense.

Lin

Paula, there are some pastors on this comment stream who need to read this post:

http://kerussocharis.blogspot.com/2008/03/when-women-rule-men-is-it-wicked.html

Paula Fether

The answer, Lin, is one that people refuse to believe: prejudice, and a universal one. I’ve written also (search here on the word Pharisee) about other instances of scriptural tampering. As Katharine Bushnell said so long ago, we need women on those committees, in those "smoke-filled rooms" so to speak. Various denominations act as checks and balances to keep other prejudices out, but this one against women knows no boundaries, a literal "good old boys" network. It is unthinkable that people would actually tamper with Scripture, but we were told in Genesis 3 that Satan would hate the woman, and this is the proof.

Yes, I hope to help spread the word. Bushnell died thinking her life’s work made little difference, but I for one am glad she did it.

Greg Anderson

Hi Paula,

Katharine Bushnell’s legacy of legitimate textual criticism has lived, and will continue to live on. She did not invest in all that rigorous study of the ancient languages for nothing.

More and more Christians are beginning to see that aside from the central message of faith in Christ and Christ alone, the Bible does not necessarily say what the big guns in conservative fundamentalism say it says.

Paula Fether

Hi Greg,

One of the most telling quotes from those conservative fundamentalists is from Al Mohler:

"When I first heard about the Holman Christian Standard Bible, I was not excited about it," Mohler said. "I think in many ways there are too many translations, and having one more translation is not necessarily a great thing. [However,] the changes in the last several months have convinced me that in the end this is an important thing for Southern Baptists to do -- if for no other reason than that we will have a major translation we can control." (Source)

That’s what it’s all about: control. The Pharisees are alive and well today.

Words of a Fether » Blog Archive » Is God Male?

[...] begin with a badly translated passage of scripture which I discussed in Leading Women, Isaiah 3:12. This is widely held to equate female leadership with God’s displeasure with a [...]