Misogyny In The Law Of Moses: The Patriarchal Privilege To Veto The Vow

“When a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. 3 Or when a woman vows a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father’s house, in her youth, 4 and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself, and says nothing to her; then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. 5 But if her father expresses disapproval to her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself, shall stand; and the Lord will forgive her, because her father opposed her. 6 And if she is married to a husband, while under her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, 7 and her husband hears of it, and says nothing to her on the day that he hears; then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. 8 But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he expresses disapproval, then he shall make void her vow which was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips, by which she bound herself; and the Lord will forgive her.” (Numbers 30.2-8; emphasis mine, DLH)

There is hardly a concept more personal and privileged than one’s own thoughts. The impenetrable fortress of the intellect is a natural private domain. Yet in the ancient Hebrew culture which produced biblical literature, patriarchy trumped privacy, even with regards to a female’s deliberated determinations and personal commitments.

The patriarchal privilege and power to veto a woman’s personal vow is one of the most intrusive of all violations of privacy and is a most presumptuous form of misogyny. Though a seemingly subtle authority in that such neither violates one’s physical being nor exploits one’s services, nonetheless the right to regulate another individual’s personal commitments is a most substantive exercise of assumed hierarchy and usurped privilege.

The right of the Father and then later the Husband to veto the vow of the woman is not only a matter of patriarchal rule, but likewise upholds the principle of male property rights with regards to the woman. The Tenth Commandment clearly regards wives as the personal property of their husbands, and the fact that the patriarchal right to veto the woman’s vow passes from the Father to the Husband is an evident indicator that the ownership of the woman is transferred from the former to the latter at the point of marriage.

The disregard for the intellect of the woman was clearly deep rooted in a variety of ancient cultures, including that which produced the Bible. Hebrew mythology blamed the hardships of humanity on an independent woman who dared think for herself with regards to her choice of edibles, much as Gnostic mythology blamed an independent female deity who chose to reproduce without consulting her consort for the deficiencies of our earthly domain. And unfortunately, such backward and bigoted thinking was incorporated into the doctrine of the Church, as women are to learn in silence and subjection, and leave the teaching to the men.

Regardless of one’s religiosity, surely it is evident that the conventional and orthodox doctrines of the Church have been based upon backwards thinking and bigoted views towards women which originated in an ancient male oriented culture. Whereas it seems unfortunate that such blatant sexism was ever normalized and legalized in any ancient society, it is surely a shame that such thinking has been incorporated into any aspect of modern, civilized society.

(Next: “Misogyny In The Law Of Moses: The Patriarchal Rule Of The Father”)

Misogyny In The Law Of Moses: Femaleness Devalued And Disdained

The society which produced biblical literature was clearly male oriented and misogynistic. The very explanation for the hardships of survival is blamed on a woman in the Hebrew Creation Myth of Genesis 3, and even the Ten Commandments relegated wives to a role equivalent to an item of personal property. The degradation of women and the double standards between the genders are each consistent and common themes within biblical writings, and the fundamental basis for each was apparently derived from an assumed inferiority of the former from the day of their very birth. Hence, the reason that misogyny and the maltreatment of women are both normalized and legalized in biblical literature is that the culture which produced such both devalued and even seems to have disdained the very concept of “femaleness”.

“The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying; she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. 5 But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.” (Leviticus 12.1-5)

“The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, When a man makes a special vow of persons to the Lord at your valuation, 3 then your valuation of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. 4 If the person is a female, your valuation shall be thirty shekels. 5 If the person is from five years old up to twenty years old, your valuation shall be for a male twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels. 6 If the person is from a month old up to five years old, your valuation shall be for a male five shekels of silver, and for a female your valuation shall be three shekels of silver. 7 And if the person is sixty years old and upward, then your valuation for a male shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels.” (Leviticus 27.1-7)

In the case of the laws regarding childbirth, a woman was considered unclean by the very act itself. The sexism related to such thinking is unmistakeable. The double standard regarding such is transparent and hypocritical. The very notion that a woman is impregnated by a man, and then is regarded as unclean when she delivers the product of the impregnation defies logic and sensitivity. Furthermore, to compound the insult, if a woman delivers a female baby then she is regarded as being twice as unclean. The double standard of such legalized misogyny clearly indicates a disdain for the very concept of femaleness in general.

Then, in a case of put your money where your misogyny is, the laws regarding the value of one’s very being assessed females at a fraction of the worth of a man. The blatant bigotry of male superiority (and thus female inferiority) as written into the laws regarding valuation sacrifices reveal the depth of the feelings which the ancient Hebrew culture which produced the Old Testament had for femaleness in general. Females were thought of as less than worthy in that male dominated society, and hence women were regarded as mere private property of men (cf Exodus 20.17).

That such double standards and degradation of women were ever normalized to the point of being legalized in any culture is a shame and a pity. But then to realize that many contemporary cultures view biblical literature as a social template with regards to patriarchal rule and female subjugation, and the concerns are compounded to the extent that the influences of such should be regarded as ill advised.

(NOTE: All biblical citations are Revised Standard Version; Biblegateway.com)

Next: “Misogyny In The Law Of Moses: The Male Right To Veto The Vow”

Misogyny In The Ten Commandments

The society which produced biblical literature was male oriented and misogynistic as to their thinking. Although most ancient cultures envisioned female deities in their tales and myths, the Hebrew world which produced the Old Testament usually identified God as a singular, male being. One particular Hebrew Creation Myth explains patriarchal rule as the divine order. It seems that once upon a time there was a woman who ate fruit from a tree which had been labeled as off limits by her male God. Naturally, as the narrative explained, that wanton act of rebellion subjected that particular woman to a life of patriarchal rule. Over the course of time, the basic interpretation of that myth became “what’s good enough for Adam is good enough for me”, hence all women of the ancient Hebrew culture were subjected to that same treatment. Thus, Eve’s punishment came to be regarded as a divine order of sorts. More reasonably, the writer responsible for the myth itself probably revealed the actual male oriented values of his day by way of this creative tale.

In fact, the ancient Hebrew culture which produced the biblical literature known as the Old
Testament was so male oriented that misogyny and the maltreatment of women were both normalized and legalized. Indeed, the hallowed Ten Commandments themselves were by no means exempt from the sexism which so characterized ancient Hebrew ideology:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20.17)

For this Tenth Commandment clearly documents that which so many Old Testament passages and accounts confirm; namely that the women of that society were regarded as mere male property. In other words, every good Hebrew male was lawfully bound to have the respect to refrain himself from coveting a fellow male’s personal possessions, among which included his wife.

This patriarchal dictate then was somewhat of a good old boys code of ethical conduct, yet there is no wording within the passage which would bind women to show the same respect to each other with relationship to their husbands. Thus, there was a loophole in this sexist commandment which allowed husbands to freely consort with concubines and prostitutes, but which certainly permitted no such liberties to wives.

The degradation of women and the double standard for men so dictated by this Tenth Commandment are clear indicators that the society which produced biblical literature both normalized and legalized misogyny and sexism. It is my personal view that ancient patriarchal standards should be left to the past, and that it is furthermore a shame that such were ever normalized and legalized in any setting.

(Next: “Females A Fraction Of The Worth, Yet Twice As Unclean”)

The Misogyny Of Moses

And so the killing began. Siblings watched as their brothers were executed. And then the remaining brothers themselves were executed. Mothers watched as their sons were executed. And then they themselves were executed. Children watched as their Mothers were executed. And then the sons themselves were executed. From young teen boys whose voices had barely begun to crack, to toddler boys barely able to walk, to baby boys in the clutches of their Mother’s arms. All the males and all the Mothers were executed.

As ordered by Moses.

It must have all been a bloody mess when the killing was done. The on the scene Priest even reminded the collective killers of their sanitation duties under the circumstances, as dictated by Hebraic Law. They were even reminded to sanitize the sex slaves that each of them had claimed.

For such was the fate of the virgin daughters of the Midianites. Their Fathers killed in battle. Their Mothers and their Brothers murdered before their very eyes. And then, as if to add insult to the most injurious of sinister circumstances, each of these young ladies was taken captive and forced to live the remainder of their lives as the sex slave of one of the Israelis soldiers who had murdered their family.

As ordered by Moses.

The trauma for these young ladies must have been inconceivable. It is hard to imagine that they ever recovered from the experience.

Sad to say, but such is the final legacy of one of the great names of biblical literature. The fact that the writer of this narrative would envision Moses himself as being the person who actually ordered the executions of the Midianite women and who arranged for sex slaves for each of the Israeli soldiers involved is unfortunate, while at the same time quite revealing. For according to this tale, among the final notable deeds of Moses were orders of the mass execution of women who he blamed for the shortcomings of his fellow Israeli males (typical “blame it on the woman” theme), the likewise execution of the male children of those same women, and the capture of young Midianite girls so they would live the remainder of their lives as sex slaves of the very Israeli soldiers who had already killed their family. This incident as described is a dreary and despicable affair, and the writer of such envisioned Moses himself as being the man who ordered and organized the entire affair.

The strong feelings of animosity which the writer of this tale feels for non-Jews is clear and evident, as are his assumptions of patriarchal entitlement. His xenophobic inclinations towards the Midianites is ironic in that the Midianites were allegedly distant cousins to the Hebrews, yet in the context of religious bigotry, the writer’s radical feelings are predictable. For as the Midianite women had supposedly once been a bad influence over the Hebrew men by encouraging them to worship other gods, the writer seems to have felt justified to see the whole lot of them executed. And their sons.

But not their virgin daughters.

As it is, the entire account was quite likely mythical. There seems to be more symbolism to the tale than realism, especially the claim that not a single Israeli soldier was killed in a battle that allegedly entailed the death of every male enemy combatant, including five kings. However; this narrative nonetheless reflects the unfavorable values of a vile and violent culture which both normalized and legalized murder and misogyny.

References: Numbers 31, Numbers 25

Next: “Misogyny In The Law Of Moses”

Misogyny In The Myth Of Sodom And Gomorrah

The Sodom and Gomorrah myth appears to have been a doublet, that is a story which is recorded twice in two different contexts in biblical literature. Each account entails out of town strangers being lodged by a hospitable host, only in turn to be subjected to the threat of gang rape. Such was averted in the Sodom and Gomorrah myth, though unfortunately not so in the lesser known doublet. These tales are representative of the vile and violent culture within which they were written, and likewise reflect commonplace bigotries of the day such as homophobia and misogyny.

As is the case with doublets in the Bible, there are certainly distinctions between these two narratives. The one takes place in Sodom; whereas the setting of the other was in Gibeah. The Sodom myth involves two males traveling together; whereas the Gibeah myth cites a man and his concubine (there is a passing mention of a male servant, yet his role in the tale was evidently too insignificant for further reference). The hospitable host in the Sodom myth has two daughters; whereas in the Gibeah myth only one daughter is mentioned. The Sodom myth was the pretext for the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; whereas the Gibeah myth was the pretext for civil war against the Benjamite tribe of Israel. Indeed, there are distinctions between these two mythical tales, yet there are certain common elements as well.

In each of the two myths at hand, out of town travelers find lodging with admittedly hospitable individuals. Unfortunately, in each case there are groups of men who gather around the abode of the hospitable host, demanding to have sex with the male strangers therein. Inexplicably, in each case the hospitable host offers to send his daughters out to be gangraped in the place of the coveted male strangers. Although in neither case are the daughters actually sent out, the concubine of the Gibeah narrative was forced outside to the fate of an all night mass molestation, which lead to her subsequent death.

These two tales reveal specific cultural bigotries of the day. Each narrative stereotypes homosexuals as sexual predators, while at the same time each normalized misogyny. The fact that the group of sexual deviants wanted to gangrape those of their same gender paints homosexuality in an exclusively negative light. This is a transparent glimpse of the worldview of ancient Hebrew values. Additionally, the fact that modern day Homophobes often cite the Sodom myth as an authoritative source to justify their bigotry illustrates the detrimental effects of incorporating the values of ancient male oriented cultures into contemporary societies.

The fact that the hospitable host in each respective narrative offers to send his daughters out to be gangraped in order to protect his male guests blatantly normalizes misogyny. To add insult to the circumstances of a daughter being offered by her own Father to be gangraped is the fact that Lot, the Father in the Sodom myth, is described as a “righteous” man in New Testament biblical writings. To describe a Father who was willing to offer his own daughters to be the victim of a gangrape as being a “righteous” man trivializes women, a circumstance which was evidently commonplace in the ancient Hebrew world from which the Old Testament was produced.

As if the later biblical assessment of Lot is not insulting enough to women, consider the literary maltreatment of Lot’s wife in the course of time. Whereas Lot, in spite of offering his own daughters to be gangraped, is referred to in the New Testament as being righteous, his poor wife was murdered and then utilized in the later biblical writings as a bad example, merely because she looked back. To put this in context, the day after having to endure the emotional stress of having her husband offer to allow their daughters to be gangraped, this poor woman was murdered because she looked back. Because she looked back!

The double standard applied to the memory of Lot’s wife in later biblical writings, as contrasted to how Lot is memorialized, is the epitome of shameless sexism and misogyny. The degrading comment “Remember Lot’s wife” memorializes her as a bad example; whereas the memory of “righteous Lot” white washes the memory of a Father who was such a misogynist that he would offer his own daughters to be gangraped in order to save face and protect his male friends.

The mythical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed a case in point as to the detrimental effects of incorporating the ancient values of the male dominated Hebrew culture into modern society.

(NEXT: “The Misogyny Of Moses”)

Patriarchy In The Bible

It is my view that Patriarchy is the most fundamental of all illegitimate forms of authority. As the family is most likely the original organized collective in the history of humanity, then the concept of male rule would seem to have developed in that very context. Then, by the time societies had developed into municipalities and conceived of the ideology of monotheism, misogyny appears to have become both normalized and legalized. At least such was the case for certain cultures, namely the ancient Hebrews. For although the origin of sexist ideology is uncertain, the concept was clearly embedded into the Hebrew culture by the time their Bible was written some 2800 years ago.

In fact, from the opening Creation myths to the final apocalyptic assertions, sexism and misogyny are presented throughout biblical literature as normal and acceptable. Misogyny within the Hebrew Bible ranged from conditioning and commanding women to accept a subjective and submissive role towards the man, to the legalized maltreatment and merciless murder of women.

In the light of the import of such archaic values into modern society, and the detrimental influence of such even to this day, I am embarking upon a personal study and written assessment of the topic of Misogyny in the Bible. It is neither my intent to attack any of the three monotheistic faiths whose doctrines developed from the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament), nor to malign the Bible itself, but rather to assess such from a secular, sensible, and hopefully sensitive point of view. In so doing, I shall endeavor to be as fair to the original writers and to people of faith as I am fervent in subjecting the archaic ideology and illegitimate authority of Patriarchy to a rational and critical assessment.

(NEXT: “Misogyny in the Hebrew Creation Myths”)

On Biblical Standards and Natural Understanding

The Bible is a volume of writings which were hand selected (and in some cases hand edited) by the early Roman Church in the 4th century CE, and subsequently deemed as the exclusive and sacred word of God. About a thousand years later, these same writings were divided and organized into chapters, verses, and into a two fold division of an “Old” and a “New” Testament. The earlier major section of these writings reflects the personal, social, and religious values of a relatively isolated, desert people of an era of some two millenniums past; whereas the latter section reflects the ethical values of the Greco-Roman era of a slightly later time. The latter section likewise seems to serve as the subtext for a 2nd CE struggle between two general factions of the then recently conceived religious movement known as Christianity.

Each of the two major sections of the Bible center upon creative tales and embellished claims of the development of a select chosen people of God into an influential and powerful collective. In the first major section, that collective was visualized as the great and powerful nation of Israel. In the latter section, the collective so visualized was the institutional Church. There is a sense of validity to the existence of the respective collectives themselves, though in each case the chronology of the claimed circumstances are debatable, and the actual extent of influence and affluence are seemingly overstated, that is if taken literally.

The writings of the former major section are primarily composed of ancient Hebrew mythology, poetry, preaching, and the biased, fanciful tales of the over exaggerated national empire heretofore mentioned. The humble state of the allegedly once significant people is attributed to sin and faithlessness of the people themselves.

Meanwhile, the latter major section (evidently written primarily in the 2nd century CE) opens with the narrative of a wildly popular itinerant preacher who captured the interest and following of the local peasants, who conversely drew the ire of the religious establishment of the day, and who eventually was executed as a blasphemer. This young cleric’s claims of an impending apocalyptic crisis, coupled with the conclusion to the narrative being an empty grave and a claim that he was resurrected, lead to ever evolving claims of immortality, ascension, and even deity.

Although the content of the biblical narratives are primarily mythical tales, nonetheless there is no denying their worldwide influence even to this day. The first major section of the Bible is the forerunner for and serves as the foundation of the three major global monotheistic religions; namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The latter major section though is primarily the domain of the numerous sects of the Christian religion. In this respect, the influence of these texts in a variety of cultures simply cannot be overstated or underestimated.

Perhaps the most profound such influences have been realized in the realm of social relations. The adaptation of ancient thinking and harsh standards to modern societies has involved a predictable share of problems and unfavorable influence. Unfortunately, a number of unseemly social and systemic issues which plague contemporary cultures have precedent in and therefore may be founded upon biblical ideology.

Such include:

Patriarchy, Sexism, and Misogyny.
State sanctioned murder (aka Death Penalty, Capital Punishment)
Theocratic justifiable murder
Infanticide
Genocide
Religious Bigotry
Institutional Slavery/Exploitation of Labor
Sex Slavery
Militarism
Imperialism
Colonialism
Homophobia
Xenophobia

This list is not necessarily totally exclusive, and by all means some the of cited issues may overlap with each other. For example, the Old Testament authorized (even commanded) that non virgin newlywed wives should be executed for crimes against Israel. Such would constitute both Misogyny and Capital Punishment, which are each social issues to themselves, but in this case, they clearly overlap. There are several other such instances, but this example suffices for the moment.

The presumption then that biblical writings are of a sacred nature unfortunately can leave the false impression that the thinking of the people and the way of life of those depicted in biblical literature are somehow just and correct simply as a matter of record. And so to many people, mere biblical statements and examples are their basis to justify debatable social practices. And so, one might quote “an eye for an eye” to justify Capital Punishment, or “if any will not work, neither let him eat” to justify cutting funding for Food Stamps, with no need for further deliberation or alternative considerations. There is undoubtedly a “the Bible says it, that settles it” mentality among a large demographic of our society, but such is based upon the heretofore mentioned presumption that biblical writings are sacred in and of themselves.

Now, to be certain as to the matter; not all Jews, Muslims, and/or Christians are bigoted, homophobic, or misogynists; and for that demographic of religious monotheists I have the utmost respect. It is not easy for a Christian to take a “live and let live” perspective with regards to the LGBTQ community while they hear homophobic propaganda from their Preachers, nor is it easy for peaceful Muslims to conduct their lives while being slandered for the deeds of extremists Islamists. But the fact remains that the social values of many monotheists; especially here in the Southern region of the US, are based upon the social values of a desert people from an isolated region of over 2,000 years ago.

And thus the conclusion of the matter at hand:

Shall we, as individuals and as collective societies, base our standards upon our own natural understanding of “right and wrong”, or shall we allow our natural senses to be influenced by ancient writings from harsh and somewhat barbaric cultures? Shall we trust our common sense and natural sense of compassion as a moral guide, or shall we trust the harsh standards of a people of antiquity?

I suggest that such queries are not so much a matter of faith or religious ideology, but a much more basic reality of natural existence and common sense.

As for me, I choose to trust my own natural understandings.

But to each their own.

Absurdism and Appendix-itus in Ecclesiastes

The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes merits high marks in my opinion for its philosophical perspective of Absurdism, and its antidotal remedy of apathetic moderation.

The author of the early portion of Ecclesiastes is a realist, one who accepts the finite nature of all life, and thus one who realizes the futility in getting too caught up in the frustrating experience of the human condition. His acceptance of Absurdism as expressed in terms of “emptiness, emptiness, all is emptiness” could not have been expressed any clearer than by Camus; whereas his advised remedy “to eat, drink, and be happy” is Dudeism 101 as portrayed in “The Big Lebowski”.

Sadly enough, the afterthoughts of the author of the Appendix are a real buzzkill to the actual summary of the original author. The whole “fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man” concept is the supplemental commentary of someone who read the text and realized that “alas, this ain’t theology”; and so with a few scratches of the pen, a wonderfully fulfilling humanist existential writing fell prey to your stereotypical theological indoctrinating humdrum.

If ever there was a case of literary homicide by Appendix-itus; then such is the case of the latter verses of the book of Ecclesiastes.

The original text of Ecclesiastes, as concluded in 12:8; offers such deep, real life existential insights, then only to be later diluted by the imaginative indoctrinating theology of a “text tamperer” in the verses that follow.

I suppose that such is only fitting when considered in the framework of the content and the message of the unknown, existential author of Ecclesiastes; “because sometimes a man who has toiled with wisdom, and knowledge, and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by a man who does not toil for it… and who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?”.

What a pity.

“Emptiness, emptiness, all is emptiness”…..

Misogyny and Myth: Genesis 19

There is a Bible story that has always bothered me, and it was one of the stories that lead to my doubts regarding both the validity of the story itself (as fact; it works fine as a myth, though still a myth with lousy values), and regarding the values which the story teaches (reveals the sexist thinking of that day and time). The story I refer to is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, as recorded in Gen 19. Among my issues with this story:

1. As a father of a daughter, I have always found this story disturbing. Lot, who is later referred to as “righteous” in the NT; offers his daughters to be gang raped. That REALLY bothers me. How can any decent father offer his daughters to be gang raped; and to protect two perfect strangers at that? Horrible values taught here.

2. The very next day, “Lot’s wife” is murdered by God on the spot; for the sin of looking back. Okay, so firstly: Why is Lot’s wife not named? And secondly: Why kill her for merely looking back; and yet never say a word to Lot about offering his daughters to be gang raped? (Daughters also not named. Very bothersome).

3. THEN; after their mother is murdered by God, Lot’s two daughters are so concerned about their father’s progeny, that they get him drunk and have sex with him. Where is the grief for their mother? And why be so concerned about father’s progeny, when he had offered them to be gang raped?

Conclusion:

This story reveals itself to be mythical and misogynistic. I regard the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot and his family; as a horrible story which totally disregards women as mere commodities; and is clearly patriarchal and sexist.

The lesson to be learned in my judgment from this story is that we should be cautious about forming our values based upon the writings of ancient Hebrew myths. Our natural sense of compassion, kindness, and fair play will guide us to be a better person than sexist material such as Genesis 19.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

Of Gods and Myths

The discussion of deities addresses matters which are seemingly beyond human comprehension. Such discussions are communicated and related in terms of concepts and symbols as narrated in that which is known as the myth.

The myth itself has typically been culture based, hence there are a variety of concepts and symbols systematically depicted in such cultural narrative. The gods then have naturally been relative to any given specific culture, and the symbols so utilized would consequently reflect the values and everyday concerns of the people of each such society.

And so mythical tales have historically given people connection to matters seemingly beyond the grasp of comprehension, and have furthermore given people a sense of control where they otherwise feel somewhat helpless and hopeless.  The daily struggle to survive, ongoing battles between good and evil, the dread of bodily decay and death are among the primary concerns which relate to all peoples of all time.  Yet, the details are unique to each individual, and more specifically those details are case specific to one’s place and time of existence.

Though a common utility of antiquity, the myth is nonetheless an ongoing form of such communication.  The narratives evolve relative to each given culture and their respective time in history, yet the general struggles of humanity remain the same.  Hence, each culture seems to continue the exercise of the myth as individuals continue to attempt to connect with that which is incomprehensible and transcendent to real life. Furthermore, most everyone desperately aims to maintain a sense of control in the state of chaos known as human existence.

Though the yearning to connect with the incomprehensible continues even to this day, the discoveries of the natural sciences have somewhat altered the scope of inquiry.  Humanity is simply no longer in the same state of ignorance relative to the cosmos and our earth as were our social ancestors of two millenniums ago.  That said, even the most learned scientists readily admit limits to our knowledge on scales immeasurable. Even so, the discoveries of humanity as to the natural operation of our universe have rendered any concept of a creation god as lacking in historical value, hence all such creation accounts are most assuredly mythical in nature.

Nonetheless, there are those who continue to seek connection with the incomprehensible in terms of faith in a higher level of existence.  The nature of such is of course subjective to the perception of each individual believer.  Deities in this regard then are as various as is the volume of such respective subjective perspectives, and are only of value to those who are inclined to connect on the level of faith to a being who symbolically transcends the natural.

Mythical narratives have of course evolved from the days of the tales of supernatural gods to a more modernized form of the same. The heros of theatrical plays, dime novels, radio and television programs, movies, and most recently video games are all mythical displays of the ever present struggle between good and evil.  Be it the old West gunslinger in a Zane Grey novel, the hard boiled detective in a Raymond Chandler book, or a superhero in a modern day video game; each such literary figure continues the legacy of the symbolic hero entangled in a seemingly endless struggle with the forces of evil.  These figures, though fictional as to their nature, serve a practical purpose in depicting a sense of control on behalf of those who endure the conflicts of the struggles of everyday life in the context of the real world of the human predicament.

The substance of the myth then is its symbolic nature.  The characters themselves may be either historical or fictional, but in either case their role in the myth transcends reality.  The key question then relative to the myth is not “did this actually happen”, but rather “what concept does this narrative represent”.  The myth permits the characters, whether historical or fictional, to operate outside of or even beyond the laws of nature, for realism is not necessarily the point of any given such narrative.

Thus, the reader of the Zane Grey novel is by no means concerned with whether the gunslingers and outlaws of the old west reference therein actually lived. Nor are the readers of a Raymond Chandler thriller concerned with whether the hard boiled detective Philip Marlowe actually worked the dark and sinister streets of the inner city in search of villains and criminals. Rather, the characters illustrated within the western “shoot ‘em up” and the “who dun it” murder mystery symbolize concepts relative to the reader.

Granted, the middle aged man sitting in his easy chair on a Sunday afternoon reading a few pages of a novel between rounds of snoozing and snoring will never walk the streets of Tombstone or occupy a dirty, dingy Private Investigators office down on the waterfront or on the 4th floor of a poorly maintained office building.  Nor will he likely ever engage in a good old fashioned shoot out, or turn his latest love interest over to the cops for killing his partner.  Yet most everyone lives in a world with constant struggles between forces of good and evil, and thus when the hero saves the damsel in distress, or when the crime boss is brought to justice, then every person engaged in such a story experiences the thrill of the experience of right prevailing over wrong, even if such only be in a story.

Such is the power of the myth.

The substance of the myth then is by no means its historicity, but rather its symbolism.  The credibility of any given myth is not the point, but rather core concepts of the human experience as represented by the characters so depicted within the context of the plot itself.  Those concepts are thus the area of connection between the reader in the real world and the context of the characters who have been systematically mythologized to that very end.

And so it is with biblical interpretation.  For example, the question is not whether Adam and Eve were historical figures who lived in an actual Garden of Eden.  Nor is the question whether Jesus Christ was an actual person who lived and died in Palestine.  As with any other myth, the key to biblical interpretation is to ascertain the concepts which are symbolized in narratives involving these and other well known literary figures.

Without a doubt, the challenges faced by Adam and Eve, both from without and likewise from within, represent true to life struggles of everyday people. For most everyone works by the sweat of the brow in order to survive, suffers physical hardships throughout the natural course of the human experience, and is even tempted from time to time to test the potential consequences of sampling forbidden fruit.  Granted, everyday life is no Garden of Eden, but that is the very point being driven home by the myth of Adam and Eve.

The story of Adam and Eve is a myth which represents the struggles of everyday existence.  Once understood on the level of symbolism and representative narrative, the story of Adam and Eve is so true to life as to be accurately representative of the everyday lives of ordinary people. The concept so symbolized by their story is in fact much like Albert Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus, in which the main character spends his entire life pushing a large stone to the top of a hill, only to have it roll to the bottom again so that Sisyphus can repeat the process. If ever there were a biblical story to which we can all relate, it is the tale of Adam and Eve, for such is a myth of the struggles of everyday existence in the real world.

A biblical myth of another sort is that of Jesus Christ.  Now, I say of another sort, for unlike the tale of Adam and Eve; which symbolized concepts common to most every person in the real world, Jesus Christ symbolized concepts which are above and beyond even the best and most powerful of all living beings.  None of us quite frankly can relate to a virgin birth, or to the ability to walk on water, or to being raised from the dead before our corpse began to decay and decompose.  Yet such claims attributed to Jesus Christ represent concepts most every one of us wishes were ours.

For deep down inside, most everyone wished they could be perfect and immortal; each qualities attributed to Jesus Christ in the gospels.  And such concepts are enveloped within the Christian doctrine; that the believer can be both perfect and immortal in Christ Jesus.  For the doctrine of personal sanctification and the general resurrection of the dead in the last day symbolizes concepts so very highly coveted by believers in Christ.

Now, the point is neither the historicity nor the divinity of Jesus Christ, for neither matter is relevant to the intent of the story of his life and deeds. It does not matter whether Jesus actually walked on water or arose from the dead, for these accounts merely symbolize concepts which are most significant to every person who has ever lived.  Jesus as a literary figure transcends natural laws which restrict even the most routine human activity, and furthermore goes beyond the border which restrict all human existence; that being life ending death.

Whether Jesus the literary figure actually did such, or actually was such, or even actually was, or even actually did anything at all is not the point.  The point of the myth of Jesus is that he symbolizes the concept of a perfect nature and eternal being, which are concepts which all people would willingly aspire to were it not for our frail and finite nature. Literary Jesus lived as no one had lived before, both in terms of his earthly experience and his post life presence.

And so unlike the biblical myth of Adam and Eve, which represents everyday struggles to which most everyone can relate, the biblical myth of Jesus Christ represents personhood and a state of being which most everyone would want, yet which no one can relate with due to our own shortcomings and finite state of existence.  In this regard, literary Jesus Christ represents a concept of human nature and being which most everyone wishes for, but can only be experienced through his symbolic being.

And so we return to the original topic:  The discussion of deities.

As mentioned from the outset, any discussion of deities is one which communicates through symbols and concepts, as narrated in the myth.  And as further discussed, the myths which narrate of gods and god like figures are for the most part culturally based. Thus, history is aplenty with gods, super heroes, and seemingly ordinary people who live larger than life within the annals of antiquity.  Consequently, the deities of the major monotheistic religions of the 21st Century have evolved from the spiritual and social superheroes of ancient cultures.  It might be said then, that today’s gods are yesteryears’ super heroes.

And so the lifeline of the gods is maintained through the medium of the myth, hence, such concepts are sustained through the symbolic actions and traditions so related. Therefore; the basic aspects associated with most religions; the rituals, the traditions, the ceremonial practices, and such like, for all practical purposes serve as the life support system of the literary figures known as the gods.

Thus the deities of antiquity; Beelzebub of the Canaanites, Yahweh of both the Canaanites and the Hebrews, Zeus of the Greeks, Orisis of the Egyptians, Mithra of the Persians, and even others, are the literary symbols of the concept of the divine as depicted by each of their respective cultures.  Quite frankly, these gods survival is dependent upon the faith of each individual believer who believes in the cultural myth so depicting each respective god.

For such is the way of gods and myths.

Dave Henderson

Denison, Texas