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Ezer kenegedo

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Vs. 28-29  If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. 

Would God really ask a woman who has been traumatized by a rape experience to marry the man who has caused her such trauma?

Anyone who has had first-hand knowledge of the trauma that comes with rape, either because they experienced it themselves, or they know someone who has experienced it, would find such a suggestion appalling.

For reasons like this one—questionable scriptural injunctions—many have concluded that both the Bible and the God revealed in it are unacceptable.

Some others believe that God is, but such a God should definitely not be associated with the Bible. They love God but doubt the Bible.

Then there are Christians who say, “All that is the Law and a New Testament Christian ought to discard the law.”

Well, I say…

There is a God and He is love. He does only good.

Also, this good God is one and the same as the God of the Bible. All of the Bible. It is an untrue assertion that New Testament believers ought to discard the Law. I explain why here.

What then is the problem here? Interpretation errors. On multiple levels.

One; Mis/translation of some key words from Hebrew to English.

Two;  There is a heavy disconnect between the spiritual, intellectual and physical planes of knowledge. (More on that here.)

Three; Context.

Four; an understanding of the The Beginning.

I will explain the last three levels first.

A person who has seen the trauma caused by rape knows on a practical and intellectual level that the surface interpretation of Deut.22:29 that the raped woman should marry her rapist cannot be acceptable. On the other hand, for people who love God but doubt the Bible, the disconnect is between their inner witness of whom they perceive God to be and who the letter of the Bible makes Him out to be. When in the interpretation of scriptures, the tripartite elements of humanity are in disconnect like this, it is evidence that there has been some error.

Understand this; Not everything written in the Bible is God’s doing or His perfect will. There are social constructs in the Bible (more on this later). Before the fall, God made the animals, told the first human to name them, and He (God) respected his decisions. That was a social construction, and the beginning of the expression of the Dominion Mandate. God has always expected humans to think and do things without His direct input.

However, social construction is only safe as long as humans do so by the inspiration of the image that is of God. After the fall, man retained his right to socially construct, but he could only do so out of a corrupt/cursed nature. By this, therefore, we must understand that God relating with people as we see in the Law was Him trying to make the best of the prevailing humanly constructed realities.

GOD HIMSELF DID NOT AUTHOR MANY OF THE CUSTOMS THAT CAME AFTER THE BEGINNING. What we see in the Law is God trying to express his own eternal principles in the light of the prevailing culture brought about by the fall of mankind. This is why believers ought not to discard the law, because if we did that, we would also be discarding God’s eternal principles embedded in there which exist nowhere else in the Bible. It was from these passages that the Apostles found the revelations that they wrote in their epistles. The solution is to learn how to separate that which is a principle from that which is a culture of the times. Separating the wheat from the chaff. That is what it means to use the law lawfully.

So, what was the culture at the time?

Patriarchy, amongst other things, was the culture. Men ruled and women desired men. The curse of Gen. 3:7 was in full operation. A woman’s value and use–and even her own greatest aspiration–often was marriage and childbearing.

Consider this scripture;

Psa 113:9  He maketh the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.

Please note that this was David, and not God, talking. Remember study rules #8 and #12; derive the actual meaning of a reading first. Here, David’s choice of words shows that, at that time in history, a ‘blessed’ woman was one who was married and had children. This does not imply that Christians are to desist from praying this scripture. What it does mean is that that scripture does not establish that marriage and childbearing are not God’s greatest blessing for women. What God said in Gen. 1:26-28 is His greatest Blessing for her (and him).

It is the same way, in Nigeria today, a ‘blessed’ person is the one who has acquired the things that make him escape the demerits of the system. Having a big generator and an inverter are seen as a big deal and a sign of the ‘blessing’, not because they are actually so, but because of the failure of the system to provide basic things like electricity.

That is how it was in the post-Fall Bible days (and even till now). People were living under the curse, away from the ideal that was set in the Beginning. After the fall, things that are basic and should otherwise mean nothing began to assume importance for the female. Whereas the fact that a woman is a human, made in the image of God, was supposed to be sufficient for her to be honored, she now had to have a man in other to be honoured socially.

Having laid that background, we can now bring the point further home.

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It was already bad enough that in those days, a woman’s only value was for marriage and childbearing. But a woman who was found to not be a virgin would not even have the chance at marriage. So, imagine that a woman is violated by rape.

Her only ‘blessing’ is gone. Her chance of being valued (at the time) is gone.

Examples; Dinah and Tamar.

Dinah was willing to marry a man who raped her and apologized to her thereafter. It was because she was willing that Shechem could go ahead to ask her hand in marriage from her family.

Tamar acknowledged being raped by her cousin as evil. But being discarded afterwards, in her estimation, was worse (2 Sam.13:16). That is to say, though hurt by the rape, she still would have preferred to marry her rapist. Notice that she herself said this. This means the prospect of being unmarried was a very, very scary and traumatizing one for women. Even more traumatizing than being raped. Women feared the idea of being unmarried and/or childless so much that they were willing to put up with anything to remove such a reproach. It is the same way many women tolerate domestic abuse today just to marry or remain married.

God had nothing to do with this social custom. On the other hand, because the curse of Gen. 3:7 (brought about by willful sin) was in full operation, the easiest mindset for a woman to have was that she desperately needed a man to survive. Of course, a number of women stood out, but the dependent woman was the norm.

Now, this is where I am going. The mind is a powerful tool; in fact, the most powerful aspect of mankind. It is the mind that determines what the body can handle. What we, in our minds, see as unacceptable today (because of more light which came about by the coming of Christ to break the Gen.3:7 curse) is different from that time. To us today, the trauma is both the rape and any form of association with the rapist.  But to these women of old, being discarded after a rape was the real trauma.

And in many ways, God met them at the level of that sentiment. Because that was what they could handle.

Also, there was only so much God could do for mankind before the redemptive work of Christ’s death and resurrection. So, it is safe to surmise that what he offered them were ad-hoc measures precipitated by His eternal principle of love.

But what were these ad-hoc measures? Are they what we assume they are? Next post we look at Deuteronomy 22 in more detail.

Art By Arteet

 

Whilst I checked for the origin of the Bible, I also checked online to see what had been written by other christians on the subject of Gender Equality. I read many, many articles, journals, and academic essays written by theologians etc. I saw that this conversation had been ongoing in Christian circles—the academia, that is—for years. I also noticed that in all these articles and essays, the arguments for or against Egalitarianism took reference, not from the vernacular versions of the Bible which most christians carry around (i.e English, French, Spanish etc), but from the Biblical text in the original languages.

I saw that when scholars argued about the correct interpretations of  scriptures, they did not focus on the interpretation/revelation of some English word. Instead they talked about how the original text may (or may not) have been properly translated. Things like, is the translation of the Hebrew phrase ʻê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw’ to the English phrase ‘help meet’ accurate? Is the translation of the Greek word ‘ecclesia’ to the English word ‘church’ accurate? Should ‘ecclesia’ have been left as ‘gathering’?

I also noticed that in other to translate a word or sentence, scholars did not just look up the meaning of one isolated word as we Pentecostal christians/pastors are wont to do when ‘referencing’ the Greek or Hebrew. They do not do that thing that Pentecostals are known for, whereby all the use they have for Biblical languages is to throw around some Greek or Hebrew words in random conversations as show off of so called spirituality or superior Bible knowledge. Instead, in employing original languages in Bible study, scholars would check such things as the tense, the mood, the voice, the context of usage…before determining the possible meaning of the word.

Why do they want to know if one translation is accurate or not? Because it is these translations that churches eventually build doctrine upon.

For example, the English translation of the Hebrew phrase ‘ê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw’ to ‘help meet’ has a lot of connotations that has impacted upon the way generations of people have lived life.  Religion has formed the culture of most, if not all, the nations of the world; what proceeds from the pulpit often translates to what obtains in culture and society. Therefore, if peradventure, the guys who translated the original copies of the Biblical text to vernacular made any mistakes, we would all have believed a lie.

Theologians understand that even though the Bible is a divine book, humans have handled it from when it was first written and there is likelihood that some mistakes occurred in its transmission. That is, they see it that the Hebrew and Greek texts are, in actual fact, what is written, while the translated versions are not, a hundred percent, what is written. Maybe ninety-nine percent correct, but the remaining one percent might cause us untold damage if not looked into.

The underlying principle in all this is simple. A serious student must always confirm. That is what the Berean Christians did, they always confirmed. It is not rebellion to confirm; it’s nobility, it’s diligence. That is why, every other year, revised versions of the Bible are published.

I thought to myself, so this has been happening since?

I immediately went to Google Play store and downloaded the Hebrew/Greek Interlinear Bible app. I wanted to look up some words myself. I began by checking 1 Corinthians 11. I noticed that where two different Greek words with two different connotations were in use in the original text, the translators put in the translated English version just one word that has only one connotation. In the Greek text, 1 Corinthians 11 contains two different words–aner and andros– which both denote ‘man’, but have two different connotations. That is, ‘aner’ usually connotes man as in a male, while andros is often used as a collective noun to mean a group of people that consist both male and female. But in the English Bible, translators put ‘man’,  as in male,  in both places and that gives the passage a very different meaning from what the original writer (Paul) actually wrote.

I checked some other scriptures; same thing.

I began to wonder what I had been doing all this while as a Bible teacher reading only the English Bible, thinking myself to to be someone who was knowledgeable. I started to panic, thinking, “what if many of the words I had built revelation on had been wrong?” I began to see the futility of many so-called revelations that Pentecostals derive from mis/translated words.

And then I thought, “But when I taught, people were getting blessed? How could an erroneous teaching have been blessing people?”

Answer; “Yes, people were being blessed. There is an explanation for that.”

One; Not everything in the English Bible is inaccurate translation. For the most part the vernacular Bibles are accurate in the readings.
Two; When the preacher/teacher is sincere, even though ignorant and unskilled,  the hearers will be blessedApollos was blessing people, even though his theology was not quite accurate. That is the power of love.

But….

Sincerity and zeal can only take you so far without the required knowledge. There is a limit to which love, without adequate skill and knowledge, can go in solving problems. For example, no matter how well meaning I am and no matter the level of my concern, I cannot perform a surgery on a sick person. Only a doctor can do that. I do not have that knowledge. That is why Paul could understand more of the Law and articulate it as the New Testament in his epistles. He could write more epistles than the others because he understood more of the mysteries hidden in the Law. Peter and the other disciples could not do this, even though they were anointed and sincere. They were illiterate men, Paul was educated.

Something vital that Pentecostal christians need to understand–particularly those of the grace and word of faith movement– is that knowledge is good,  and intellectualism is priceless.  Why? God is an intelligent being. Intellectualism does not impede divine revelation; it facilitates it. Yes, it does! When you engage both your mind and your spirit in the enquiry of knowledge, it opens you up to a whole new level of communication with your world and with the Lord. That is why Apollos needed to be taught more by Aquilla and Priscilla. And thank God he re-calibrated. Thank God, he did not say because he was already blessing people it also meant that his teaching was completely right. Notice that in later years, his name was mentioned alongside Paul’s.

Humility is good. To unlearn and relearn is good.

So, having seen all that, I put aside everything I had known and started over. I got resources online and started to learn Hebrew and Greek Grammar, how to parse (words and sentences) and then translate from the Hebrew and the Greek to English. I also learnt new guidelines on how to study the Bible. I learnt how to deconstruct a text; split it into all its elements and see all the possible ways it could be understood.

Then finally, in the light of what prompted this reawakening to begin with (the quest to dis/prove Gender Equality from scriptures), starting from Genesis and working my way all through the Law, the Prophets and the Epistles, I re-translated all the readings (not isolated verses, but whole chapters) that reference the status of the female, and I deconstructed all of them, searching for answers.

It took me about two years, but I did it. You also can…as I share my  journey with you.

Art  by Lain