*Don’t miss a big announcement in the last lines.
In my nightly reading I’m slipping through a warm and hopeful novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday. The female lead notices that our lead male “did look henpecked. I hope you never look henpecked when we are married,” she writes her fiancée. “I will try not to peck too hard.”
Henpeck = To dominate or harass (someone, usually a man) with persistent nagging. (American Heritage Dictionary)
Ah, hence the “hen”. It’s a female dominated vice.
Do you remember The Music Man, when the women all pick apart Marian, the librarian, in their song “Pick-a-little”?
Perhaps it’s an out-of-fashion accusation these days when we’re afraid to point out controlling women for fear of being called anti-feminist or anti-woman. But the problem persists.
And it’s easy to find Bible verses to tell women to shut their yappers.
Paul wrote, ”A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (NIV, 1 Tim 2:11-15).
Forget henpecking, we shouldn’t even peep.
Because Eve was created second.
Because Eve was deceived.
And our salvation is to have… kids with faith, love, holiness and propriety?
For me, this doesn’t sound very good newsy. It sounds more like bad news bears!
I had an epiphany moment with this 1 Tim 2 passage.
Did you ever have that ah HA! moment when you realized some key point about something you’ve always believed? Like how Jesus’ title “Lamb of God” clicked with the Jewish people who had sacrificed lambs for thousands of years (Gen 22:8, Ex 29, Jn 1:29)?
The words of God root into a specific people: the Jewish people who have a specific story of origins.
Timothy’s church in Ephesus was also rooted, but into another story.
An Ephesian woman grew up in the shadow of a Temple that archeologists would name one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Temple to Artemis (Roman: Diana) dominated the landscape in a way much like the capital dome dominates D.C. or the World Trade Centers used to dominate New York. This Temple wasn’t a simply a landmark for tourists, the Temple of Artemis dictated the Ephesians holidays, gender roles, economy, sex practices and their hope for protection.
Ephesians chanted “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for two freaking hours after Paul announced his Jewish origin. They counted their city the guardian of the statue of Artemis (Acts 19:35) housed in their temple which had been built and rebuilt on this site for over 700 years. The Jewish temple in Jerusalem was the new kid on the block by comparison.
Imagine Timothy’s church living with this towering structure, among a people who were accustomed to worshipping Artemis, one of those empowered female Goddesses. After slipping through the birth canal Artemis rises to midwife her twin brother, Apollo. Artemis was revered as the Goddess of childbirth. She could save, her trinkets could protect women from death even as they passed through labor.
At their temple a staff of slave-girls and eunuchs took orders from a head priestess. Ephesian women could easily believe women’s spiritual powers outflanked men’s. Artemis gave them power and dominance, she was the special friend to females and their city lived by her blessing.
In 1 Timothy 2, Paul was helping Timothy counter Ephesian female superiority. In fact some scholars believe Ephesians and 1 Timothy offer polemics against Artemis’ power. Read more about this cultural background: Unmuted: the Welcome Colors of a Woman’s Voice.
Why didn’t Paul just write to contradict the cult of Artemis more clearly and save us centuries of misinterpreting 1 Tim 2? Why didn’t he name “Artemis”?
How would this have helped pastor Timothy? We know blaspheming the Goddess was a crime worthy of court action (Acts 19:37).
Since we live in a culture that believes women are a tad more spiritual than men, I think we can pull a universal principle from this ancient text from Paul.
We need to be reminded: we aren’t more pure, we’re not angels of the hearth or moral gatekeepers of society. We’re not better because we can give birth or multi-task.
If we act like we’re always smarter and men are often stupid buffoons, we are pecking away at something God calls good. That would be a man, made in God’s image.
Even as feminists, let’s recognize that women makes mistakes, too. Let’s call beauty and order out of men, not chaos.
Let’s act as if our story, the Jewish story, is true.
* Hear ye, hear ye, at the stroke of twelve the spell will be broken and RubySlippers will be more beautiful than it was before. The url will not change. Come visit tomorrow and everything will look sparklingly.