“A Word on the Patriarchy,” by Andrew J. Schatkin

Many, to use a word in common parlance, feminists, or possibly, women, in general, have of late objected to the male terminology found in the Bible. For example, God is often referred to by the term “Father” and Jesus is referenced with the male term “Son.”

The first thing that should be said here is that God is a spirit and as such has no sex. Therefore, the use of those particular male analogous terms are no more than analogies and we should not come to the conclusion that God is a male with a son. It is somewhat beyond the scope of this essay to attempt to explain the use of these terms in the bible and in the church. In this little excursus, I will discuss something else more exactly, namely, why Jesus or so many believe, came to be revealed as a man rather than a woman. I would like, however, initially to suggest an explanation as to the use of these particular terms in both the Hebrew Bible and he New Testament.

First of all, my Hebrew and Greek are at this point somewhat amateurish and therefore I am not in a very strong position to translate the words referencing father and son correctly. I would like to suggest something of an explanation of the use of these patriarchal terms which many not only object to but seek to change to gender-neutral terms in the Bible. I offer the following opinion and analysis.

In the Near East there, were many female goddesses and mother goddesses and, not only that, temple prostitution was somewhat common and the reason for this is that people did not understand how food was grown and they thought that through temple prostitution they could cause their food to grow. Many of the representations of the female goddesses involved the representation of exaggerated parts of the female anatomy. Thus, I suggest as an approach to the matter that the patriarchal representation in the Bible, is, one might say, God’s way of directing us from the idea that he is some sort of sexual being and that his relationship to us is sexual. Therefore, he uses this terminology to guide us to an understanding. He is not engaged in reproduction. He is not a goddess, and, most of all, He is not some sort of mother goddess, as was common in other cultures surrounding the Jewish people at that time. However, I must caution that the use of these male terms is merely an analogy and certainly does not mean that God is a man.

Now, I want to talk about something else, namely another possible explanation as to why god had Jesus come to earth as a man. Again, I am only speculating here, but in the culture at that time, and possibly, even today, for a woman with a group of women to band together and walk around doing healings and give ethical discourses and stories to guide people in the form of Parables, I do not think was viable in that particular culture. Even today, women who walk about alone, unfortunately, may be seen by certain members of our society as somewhat vulnerable. In addition, a woman at that time Jesus came and spoke probably would not have been accepted in the same way and same seriousness as a man might be in that role. Therefore, I think that the appearance of Jesus as a man was a cultural adaptation and I might be able to say that a woman in that role would not have been accepted or even listened to with the same seriousness and attention.

Let me conclude this little essay with the absolute conviction that God is a spirit and neither male nor female but certainly has the attributes of both sexes. God will render a final judgment, so Christians believe, but also exhibits great compassion and love to all men and women. Of course, it is my conviction that love, judgment and justice may be found in either sex, either singly or together and I think it is mistake to confine those attributes to either men or women. I think you can find a man as compassionate as a woman, depending on the woman, and a woman able to make critical judgments and decisions with the same ability as a man. These particular characteristics are not sexual characteristics but personal characteristics.

In short, I think there is a reason for the patriarchal terms in the bible and church. I do not think these terms and terminology should be read out of the Bible or the church since they are there for a very good reason: to inform us about God’s nature which is not sexual. If God were represented as a woman, great confusion could result in human thinking about the nature of God