Tag Archive | misogyny

Twelve Conclusions From Reading Paul’s Epistles in Full

Hypatia of Alexandria - SmithsonianToday I read all of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament from start to finish, something I never did when I was a Christian. No, I haven’t “seen the error of my ways” and converted back to that religion.  Rather this is part of my ongoing research into the life and death of Hypatia of Alexandria, the gifted astronomer and philosopher murdered in 415 CE by a mob of Christians in Alexandria.  I am seeking for the roots of her murder. Why was she considered a threat to the Christian community and why did that community believe it was morally justifiable to murder her so viciously when Exodus 20:13 is so explicit on the matter?

My reading of the epistles is first and foremost looking for bias — a critical job for any historian.  Who was Paul? What did he believe? What biases and bigotries did he possess? Here are my opening conclusions and impressions from reading the epistles as a whole:

1) Paul genuinely had one or more visions that affected him profoundly.
2) Paul’s legalism from his time as a pharisee did not go away. He believes in the written “word of God” as he experienced it as a pharisee.
3) Paul believes God has inspired him to write down what God wants for everyone. Because it comes from God, it must absolutely be obeyed without question or intellectual scrutiny.
4) Paul did not believe in individual liberty.
5) Paul believed in absolute obedience to authority without question. Especially slaves must obey masters. Women must obey men. Neither groups are persons with their own human rights.
6) Philosophy (the educational systems of his time) is bad. It leads you away from God and into sexual perversions.
7) Anything that takes you away from his view of Truth and God is bad and must be avoided at all costs. That includes people who do not believe or live as you do (though Paul contradicts himself on this point at times, depending on the letter).
8) God made women and slaves inherently inferior.
9) Women are innately perverse, sinful, lusty creatures.
10) Women need men as masters in order to be saved from Satan and hell.
11) Women lack the innate morality to lead men, especially in religious matters.
12) Sex and sexual desire, especially for a woman’s pleasure or between two men is gravely sinful.
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The final point about sex is especially important. Paul spends probably more time on sex and sexual mores than any other specific topic he covers.  It is almost an obsession for him.
For example, 1 Timothy 5 verses 11 and 12 says, “11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry.12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge.”

This theme continues in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 when he writes regarding all people, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.”

Paul sees sexual pleasure as a perversion that keeps men (males) from holiness and living godly lives. Women, seducers that they are, must therefore be tightly controlled and silenced because they through their sexuality are Satan’s tools who will sabotage men at every turn.

The birth of Pandora

This belief that women are seducers and Paul’s incessant missives to control women, to keep them away from places of influence and power, may be at the core of why church leaders in Alexandria were able to ignore Exodus 20:13 and command Hypatia’s murder.

It was not the first time the Bible was used to kill an innocent.  It was not the last.  But perhaps we can chart a different future, one where religion is no longer the excuse for the inexcusable.  Perhaps then we shall have peace.

The creation of women as Zeus’ revenge: an excerpt from Hesiod’s “Theogony.”

As research continues on “Hypatia of Alexandria” I have located “Theogony” by the 8th century BCE poet Hesiod, one of just a handful of Greek poets who recorded the Greek holy stories or scriptures.

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Prometheus bound.

Significant to my research is the portion of the Theogony telling how women were created by Zeus.  Here is Hesiod’s chapter telling the story:

The birth of Pandora

The birth of Pandora

“Prometheus: Pandora and the Lineage of Women

570 Forthwith then he fashioned evil for men in requital for the fire bestowed. For from the earth the famous Hephaistos, halting in both feet, fashioned the image of a modest maiden, through the counsels of the son of Kronos. And the goddess glancing-eyed Athena girded and arrayed her in silver-white raiment; 575 and from her head she held with her hands a curiously embroidered veil, a marvel to look upon: and Pallas Athena placed around her about her head lovely garlands fresh-budding with meadow-flowers, and around her head she set a golden coronet, which renowned Hephaistos lame with both feet had made himself, 580 having wrought it carefully by hand, out of compliment to Zeus his father. On it had been wrought many curious monsters, a marvel to view, as many as in great abundance the continent and the sea maintain. Many of these he introduced, and much elegance beamed from it, of wondrous beauty, like to living animals gifted with sounds. 585 But when he had wrought a beauteous evil instead of good, he led her forth even where were the rest of gods and men, exulting as she was in the adornment of the gleaming-eyed daughter-of-a-strong-father: and wonder seized immortal gods as well as mortal men, when they beheld a deep snare, against which man’s craftiness is in vain.

590 From her is the race of tender women. For from her is a pernicious race. Tribes of women, a great source of hurt, dwell with mortal men, helpmates not in consuming poverty, but in surfeit. And as when in close-roofed hives bees 595 feed drones, sharers in bad works, the former through the whole day till sunset are busy day by day, and make white combs, while the latter, remaining within in the close-roofed hives, reap the labors of others for their own stomachs. 600 Just as to mortal men high-thundering Zeus gave women as an evil, accomplices of painful toils: another evil too did he provide instead of good; to wit whosoever shunning marriage and the ills that women work, declines to marry, and has come to old age pernicious, 605 through want of one to tend his final days; he lives not, it is true, in lack of subsistence, but, when he is dead, distant kindred divide his possessions; while to whomsoever, on the other hand, the lot of marriage shall have fallen, and he has had a good wife congenial to his heart, to him then forever ill contends with good to be with him: 610 but whoso finds a baneful breed, lives with an incessant care to spirit and heart within his breast, and it is an irremediable woe. Thus it is not possible to deceive or overreach the mind of Zeus, for neither did Prometheus, helpful son of Iapetos, 615 escape from beneath his severe wrath; but a great chain, by necessity, constrains him, very knowing though he is.”