The Bible Killed My Future
With the Dawning of the Bible and Christianity, a new role was formed for women. In biblical days and in times before the crucifixion of Christ, women were sacred and revered for their ability to bring life into the world. The feminine goddess and sacred female was once the opposite and equal counterpart to the male. Yet, after the death of Christ many religious Christian sects fought over the contents of the Bible and the direction of the church. Men attributed power with religious dominance over other religious sects and women, therefore destroying the Goddess Temple and its priestesses. This shift into anti-feminism morphed women into a gender defined role created by men and the Bible, forever suppressing them and outlining the course of the future for women.
While Jesus was alive and immediately following his death, there were many different religious sects and religious advocates trying to spread their version of the word of God. Because of these constant religious bombardments, a fluent speaker such as Christ became a crowd favorite and was soon popular among the people. His stories and his Gospel that was spread by himself and his disciples were about God encouraged people and built them up. There were both male and female disciples. One of these female disciples was Mary Magdalene. “It was unheard of for a man like Christ to defend a woman such as Mary Magdalene, who was supposed to be jaded and a harlot to boot.” (Browne 39) Mary Magdalene, later depicted as a reformed prostitute, was actually a disciple like that of Peter, Mark, Luke and Matthew to name a few. She was very close to Jesus, referred to as his “first apostle” or “apostle of apostles” (Browne 56) and might even have been his wife. “Why do most people know her as the reformed prostitute, rather than as what seems more likely-a ministering priestess with a deep understanding of the threshold of the spirit?”( Leloup xxiii)
Many men and prominent figures of the church refused to allow women to be on the same level as them. At the time of Christ, it was hard for women to find their place in the church. Women held no status in the church, only in the Goddess’s Temple. During the rule of Caesar, it was common for women to gather inside each other’s houses for a “Bona Dea” or “Good Goddess” worshipping (Bristow 50). This practice of religion was top secret and for women only. The priestesses at the temples were often revered and some life-long chaste vessels for the Great Goddess. Such matriarchal pride and worship ended after the death of Jesus. However, during the life of Jesus, the temples were still used for the Great Goddess and women, although somewhat suppressed, were still considered sacred vessels of life. Upon the “success” of the crusades and the gathering power of the church do we finally see serious controlling of women’s rights and values. “In the Middle Ages and even into the Renaissance the Catholic Church reigned supreme. With their various crusades and inquisitions, they took a hard line toward any who didn’t follow their faith. They killed literally hundreds in their various purges against the followers of Islam, paganism, and Gnosticism.” (Browne 152)
The lack of true understanding of the Bible’s words mixed with miscommunication results in many of today’s religion. “The misinterpretation of the tenth commandment that robs women of legal rights illustrates this danger.” (Bristow 21) Dividing the Bible up into two parts of slight female oppression and total submission and suppression of femininity is as easy as dividing the Bible up between the Old and New Testaments. The books in the Bible contain extremely sexist lines that put women in their place or use female liberating lines such as those from Paul and completely detract from their actual meaning. In such scriptures as that from Peter, women are really given a bad reputation and are said to merely be possessions coveted by men. “Most women in the Bible were portrayed as wily and not to be trusted. Salome and Delilah, for example were vilified. But it all started with Eve, who ‘made’ Adam eat of the tree of knowledge.” (Browne 26)
Another troubling factor of the Bible is the lack of mention of the Virgin Mary, or Christ’s mother. In other books such as Quran, Gnostic and King James Bible, Mary and other women are constantly mentioned and sometimes even featured. The lack of female presence in the Bible is just another oppressing attribute. However, in the Old Testament there is some inclusion of surprisingly strong and brave women. “We do see a few instances of strong women in the Old Testament…see exceptions like Deborah, who was a great judge; Ruth, the wife of Boaz, whose royal family produced the house of David…and Esther, who saved her people.” (Browne 27) Yet it seems that a general theme of women in the Bible is that of weaker beings, needing men to protect and shelter them. Most of the women are just depicted as whores, villains of celibate followers in the Bible.
The definition of the Latin derived word, pagan, is country dweller. We then wonder how ‘pagan’ became the term Christians used to describe heathens or non Christians. (Kinstler) One theory is that it was the country dwellers that held on to the old religion longer than city dwellers and therefore the term became used for both those who dwell in the country and those who keep the old ways close. So what were these old ways that they were so threatening to the new Christianity? It was the sacred feminine. (Kinstler) It was the idea that the female was as important as the male, to be worshiped and blessed alongside the masculine. “The God, King, Priest, and Father replaced the Goddess, Queen Priestess and Mother. The role of women became restricted.”( Robinson, html)
Why would these peaceful traditions threatening Christianity? Simply because the Church is highly patriarchal and giving the sacred female power would give the people too much power. The female form and worship revolved around sex and the worship of the body and people. The Church believed that all love and worship should revolve around God and humility. The pagan worshipers who were sexually liberating were dangerous to the new Church’s ways and therefore had to be beaten down. (Kinstler) The easiest and most accessible focal point was that of women.
Women pre-Bible were important and integral parts of religious practices and ceremonies. In forms of Pagan worship there was a Priestess who was the embodiment of the Goddess with her male counterpart as the embodiment of the God. It was however the Goddess who played the more important role. “Like the angels that have pervaded every culture, Mother God was also part of every civilization-until some religions like Christianity tried to suppress Her.” (Browne 19) Women were revered due to their ability to give life in birth and their nurturing and mothering nature. Women posts Bible were not allowed to participate actively in any of the Christian ceremonies or rites. Males were priests, bishops, popes, heads of church and the writers of the rules and divinities.
After the development of Christianity and the circulation of the Bible, women gradually shifted into this newly defined role. “An ideal wife is described in Proverbs 31 as one who not only tends to household chores but also buys real estate, manages a household staff, oversees production from a vineyard, and engages in a linen garment manufacturing enterprise on the side.” (Bristow 15) The subordinated “weaker sex” became a socially accepted norm across cultures. As Christianity spread so did this ideal feminine image. Certain beliefs from different sects made it even more possible to oppress females. Original Roman Catholics did not believe in birth control and therefore many women in this sect suffered from sometimes unwanted and constant pregnancy, then were expected to stay at home and raise all these children. “…the role of women continued to be heavily restricted by the male hierarchy of the Catholic Church, who tried to stem the flow of belief in the female principle.” (Browne 23) Despite the change in society over time, similar beliefs are still practiced in certain sects. A fair example of modern day suppression of women is the polygamist reservations and the sheltering of upcoming generations from these branches.
Mary Magdalene is depicted as the “Holy Grail” in some historical accounts and even best-selling books like The Da Vinci Code. In The Da Vinci Code, Mary is said to be the holy vessel or grail of Jesus’ lineage. Although such beliefs are not as popular as the Bible and the fundaments of Christianity, this depiction of Mary is actually commonly told in historical documents and lost Gospels. “The legend of the Holy Grail is a legend about royal blood. When Grail legend speaks of ‘the chalice that held the blood of Christ’…it speaks, in fact, of Mary Magdalene-the female womb that carried Jesus’ royal bloodline.” (Brown 327) Mary Magdalene was more than likely not a prostitute and was probably at least one of Jesus’ disciples if not his wife. In a couple of the lost Gospels, there is suggestion of Mary being well-favored over the other disciples, having more one-on-one time with Jesus, learning and understanding his teachings better than the other disciples and even jealousy of the other disciples for her. “The Gospel of Phillip: …And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, ‘why do you love her more than all of us?’” (Brown 323)
In The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, Brown explains this dissention of Mary’s status as resulting from patriarchal church tyranny and peer jealousy. “Yet if the teacher held her worth, who are you to reject her? Surely the Teacher knew her very well, for he loved her more than us.” (Leloup 37) It is said that Peter was so hurt that Jesus favored Mary over him that he was responsible for not only slandering her reputation but also going against her beliefs and teachings and founding the “true” church of Christ in his name. “The confrontation of Mary with Peter, a scenario also found in The Gospel of Thomas, Pistis Sophia, and The Gospel of the Egyptians, reflects some of the tensions in second-century Christianity.” (Browne 54) Today, Peter is known as the rock of Catholicism and a beloved saint. Mary, is known for being a whore who tried to tempt Jesus. This development is mainly due to jealousy and the fear of woman dominance, especially Mary being more significant than Peter. “And Peter added: ‘How is it possible the teacher talked in this manner with a woman about secrets which we ourselves are ignorant? Must we change our customs, and listen to this woman? Did he really choose her, and prefer her to us?” (Leloup 37)
The early Christians leaders understood that to take away power from an societal and cultural ideal such as a religion you needed to make a mockery of their most important aspect. In the case of the old pagan religions it was the female, and so the women were regulated to sitting in the pews, raising their good Christian children, and worshiping the male God of Christianity that had no female counterpart to balance out the feminine aspect of nature. “…the female principle was gradually driven out of religion. Women were reduced to a level inferior to men.” (Robinson, html)
The Acts of Paul display a completely different ideology then thought to be coveted by Paul. In the Gnostics, Paul speaks of the beauty of women counterparts to men and how necessary both halves are. Also he would preach about the company of women for their intelligence and of fellow followers of Christ that too spoke of his teachings. “At the close of Paul’s great treaties to the Romans, he listed a number of church leaders by name, persons worthy of his praise. Twenty-six persons are mentioned, eight of whom are women…’These were noble women, hindered in no way by their sex…’” (Bristow 56)
The time period during Paul’s life was shortly after the death of Jesus and was incredibly oppressing for certain sects of women. “Paul’s Jewish converts were heirs to the authority of the Old Testament which offers quite a varied and often colorful collection of examples of womanhood. The stories within its pages depict a great diversity of personalities and powers among women…” ( Bristow 14) Women could not converse with men (including their husband) in public, worship with men, eat with men, wear certain clothing, leave their hair unbound (Bristow 88), hold a position of leadership or even obtain an education. “….women were regarded as objects, not persons, alive but inferior to men. One illustration of this lower status was the practice of women’s not eating with men. A wife would serve her husband at the table and stand while he ate.” (Bristow 19) This circumstance was largely due to off-track Christian and Jewish sects such as The Essenes (Bristow 24) which were a fanatical Jewish sect, especially with their beliefs when it came to female suppression and ruling over their wives. Women were not worth anything. Paul however spoke of female heads of churches and fellow speakers of the Gospel. A repetitively used line in Paul’s Gospel is “There is neither Jew nor Greek… neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Before the actual formation of the Bible different sects of Christianity preached their own Gospels and used the books that appealed to their beliefs the most. “You had many churches in different areas that belonged to different ‘divisions’ of Christianity, and each had its own favored Christian writings” (Browne 154) Then when the Bible came into creation, it was from one, particular religious sect and used only the books that built it up this sect eventually making it completely patriarchal. Books that spoke of a kind and loving God or that of his female counterpart were destroyed. Women Gospels were banned and a rigid set of rules were advocated and strictly followed by females. “…since coveting a man’s wife is mentioned, then a man’s wife must be his possession. The commandment, they added makes no distinction between field, animal, servant or wife.” (Bristow 19)
This book, called the Bible, although making its appearance all over the world throughout time, was repeatedly revised, depending on the political system and ruler. Another downfall of the Bible is that parts of it were actually rewritten! An example of this is The Gospel of Paul. Paul was fro-liberal feminism but his words were misinterpreted and later rewritten from constant inaccurate translations. The Bible is really just a compilation of random Gospels selected to be included in the book. Many Gospels were thrown out, destroyed or hidden because of political reasons or underhanded agendas of the church and its leaders. The Gospels of Mary Magdalene, Thomas, The Acts of Paul and of The Gnostic books were declared heretics simple because they contradicted the churches power and the desires of those who ran it. “Apparently, Jesus’ example regarding women became the norm within the apostolic church. The apostles soon began to speak of the ‘women of our company’ (Luke 24:22). When the apostles engaged in prayer, they did so ‘together with the women’ (Acts 1:14).” (Bristow 54) Churches like the apostolic church were considered blasphemous and were said to be preaching heresy.
Due to this religious shift in Christianity, women were left subordinate and even looked at negatively with the “curse” of femininity. Opposing sects were declared heretics as well and a division was made in the church. Tertullian (C.A.D. 160-230), who, after the death of Jesus, was a prominent figure and defender of the Christian faith, used the story of Adam and Eve, with Eve’s sin to condemn all women. He wrote:
“woman…do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image in man. On account of your desert-that is, death-even the Son of God had to die.” (Bristow 28)
When Alexander the Great came into power he had somewhat of a dilemma with his kingdom. He ruled over Pagans, Christians and Jews. This caused much tension between the polytheistic and monotheistic beliefs. As a way to quell the stress he ordered certain books thrown out of the Bible, had monks rewrite or destroy Gospels he disagreed with and completely altered Christianity. With succeeding leaders such as Constantine, conditions only worsened as he tried to incorporate and somewhat blur the lines between the two religions. “Emperor Constantine wanted to put an end to that and put them all under one roof, which evolved to be the Catholic Church.” (Browne 154) The traditional holy day of Sabbath for Christians was originally on Saturday but Constantine changed that to Sunday to correspond with the Pagan Sabbath which is on Sunday for their sun god. Symbolism played a profound role with such characters of the Virgin Mary, as a “matriarchal” figure and even the symbol for the trinity. So much of the pagan religion can now be found in Christianity that is has become more of a blending of the two than anything else. However, much was lost and destroyed from this effort to incorporate these separate religions for purely political reasons. So many Gospels that spoke as much truth as those included in the Bible were lost, burned and long forgotten. Those that still clung to these beliefs were condemned. “Anyone who chose the forbidden Gospels over Constantine’s version was deemed a heretic.” (Brown 307)
The Bible has definitely had a tremendous impact on society throughout time and today. Psychologist, Sigmund Freud, developed a hypothesis over the psychological gendering of men and women and their obvious differences. Freud believed that young girls tried to compensate for their lack of penis by struggling to get ahead, surpass men, and do “manly” jobs. In the 1950’s it was very common for ambitious women to be labeled as having “penis envy” after the release of Freud’s research. (Friedan, html) Countering his theory was Karen Horney, with her reverse hypothesis that men have “womb envy” and subordinate women because they can never create life like women can. (Friedan, html) Correlating to this idea is the possibility that not only the Bible brought the onset of female subordination, but also men who feared females and their undeniable capabilities. The oppression was a reason to compensate for the lack of childbearing competence that women have. Some feminists thought that men perhaps would rather rule than be ruled since they were not needed to procreate. This theory applied to the time before men were believed to be equally imperative in reproduction [biblical days]. (Friedan, html)
With the turn of the century and the crucifixion of Jesus, mystery has continuously shrouded Christianity and past events. The Disciples and followers of Christ wrote down their interpretation of his teachings in a collaboration of stories now known as the Bible. Despite religious loyalty and testimony to this book, the truth remains that it was written by men, edited, and revised repeatedly over time by yet more men. Many books were lost in this revised edition of the Bible and whether the truth remained or was lost as well is still much debated over. “Meaning that history is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books…” (Brown 335) The change in female status was just one of many negative repercussions resulting in the rise of Christianity and the blind faith put into the Bible. Religion continues to build up, oppress, define, divide, unite and dictate the lives of everyone who has ever come into contact with the Bible; whether that is direct contact such as Christianity or indirect contact: society and people pertaining to Christianity. Globalization and religious influence continues to shape the role of women today.
Friedan, Betty. The Sexual Solipsism of Sigmund Freud. Source: The Feminine Mystique, 1963;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden in 1998, proofed and corrected in March 2005. http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/friedan.htm
Browne, Sylvia. Mother God, The Feminine Principle To Our Creator. Hay House Inc; Carlsbad, CA. 2004
Browne, Sylvia. The TWO MARYS, The Hidden History of the Mother and Wife of Jesus. New American Library, New York, NY. 2007
Robinson, B.A.. “Goddess Worship: That Real ‘Old Time Religion’?” www.religionstolerance.org/goddess
Leloup, Jean-Yves, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Inner Traditions International; Rochester, Vermont. 2002