Only one flesh

1. Equality among man and woman is a signal of our time, assumed by the Vatican Council II as belonging  to God´s original plan. Nevertheless, the old tradition of the woman’s submission persists in the middle of the ecclesial involution. At the same time, the old myth of the independent and rebellious woman comes back again. It is necessary to discern.

2. A Jewish legend (century X a. D.), Ben Sira´s alphabet, gathers up the old myth of Lilith, which the Jews exiled in Babylon take to his land: “When God had created the lonely first man, he told to himself: It is not good for the man to be alone, and he created a woman taken, like he, from the earth, and he called her Lilith. From that moment they did not cease to compete among them… He said: You are made to be underneath and I on top. She told him: Both are equal, since both come from the earth. None of them listened to the other. Confirming this, Lilith pronounced the wonderful Name and she hid in the air space. Adam prayed  before his Creator and said: Sovereign of the world, the woman you gave me has fled far from me”

3. From the Burney’s plaque, Babylonia’s relief of cooked mud conserved in London Britannic Museum , we could say that expressions: Forty centuries stare at us. In the plaque appears Lilith, naked, with wings and turban or tiara of antlers, with feet shaped like owl paws, symbol of the night. She is raised over two lions or jackals and flanked by two owls. In each hand she carries a set of sting and rod to measure the grain. Enemy of women in labour and of the just born children, she is men’s  seducer. Taking a good look of it, the plaque is loaded of a clearly warning symbolism.

4. In our times, the old myth comes back to revive like a feminism symbol: “First woman before Eve, Lilith, independent and rebel, through the Jewish mysticism would become a children assassin and a night demon. In the meanwhile, Eve submissive, Eve silenced, Eve lit up, shall usurp the title to her untamed predecessor, determining the luck of half of the humanity in a world where Adam’s protagonist eagerness triumphs. And Lilith would disappear with a rabid strike of the first son heirs, keen of forgetting that, in some ancient times, they do shared  their dreams with Lilith´s  daughters”, “Adam’s sons always told us that the first woman was called Eve, and that she was born from the rib of the first man. They forgot to tell us that, really, in the Old Testament there was not only one narration of creation, but two, and deeply different. If we follow the Bible, we will see that there is one in Genesis (1, 1 – 31) and another in Genesis (2, 1 – 25). The sons of Adam did not tell us either that, in the first version – the one they overlooked -,  God created man and woman at the same time and with the same earth. Equal” (Gn 1, 27 – 28), “don’t forget it: we are not daughters of Eve. We are daughters of Lilith” (Carmen Posadas, Sophie Courgeon, At Lilith´s shadow. In the search of the lost equality, 12 – 15)

5. A revision of the received tradition and, also, of the old myth, is needed. The old tradition argues, from the second narration of the creation (c. X b. C.) that the man was created first with dust from the ground (Gn 2, 7) and the woman that the woman was formed from a man’s rib (2, 22). Nevertheless, the old tradition reflects the social situation of the ancient world. Next passage, which the Gospel assumes and that proclaims that the unity and equality between man and woman, is ignored: “That is why man leaves his father and mother and is attached to his wife, and with her becomes one flesh.” (2, 24).

6. Besides, the first narration of creation (century V b. C. ) presents the human being, differentiated from the sexual point of view. Both, man and woman, are God´s image, not only the man: “God created man in his image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”. (1, 27). Both are different from the sexual point of view, but equal in human dignity. Fecundity (fatherhood, motherhood) are equally of both, just like the mission of dominating the earth (1, 28).

7. The statement that the man is head (or chief) of the woman appears (such as it reaches us) in several Pauline letters (1 Co 11, 3; Eph 5, 23; Tt 2, 5) and in the first letter from Peter (1 P 3, 1), but it does not appear in the evangels. What does this mean? Is that statement God´s word or it only reflects the female social situation, of inferiority, dependency and submission, such as it is given in the ancient world?

8. In the ancient world, saving some isolated cases, the female does not carry out any roll in public life. Her training is limited to her housekeeping. According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 – 322 b. C.), who so much influences the medieval Christian tradition, the female is “like a cripple man” (De generatione animalium, 2, 3). In the Jewish world, up to the twelve years and a half old, the father has the parental authority: “She shall always stay under the paternal authority until she goes, with the marriage, under her husband dependency”, it is said in The Misnah, which collects the Jewish oral tradition until the century II a. D. (Third Order, IV, 5). “The female, says the law, is submitted to the husband in every thing” (Joseph, Contra Apionem, 2, 24). The same appears in the letter to the Ephesians: “Women must submit in everything to their husbands” (Eph 5, 24).

9. In our times, the Human Rights Universal Statement (1948) establishes the equality between husband and wife: “man and woman have the same rights, before, during and after the marriage” (article 16). Everybody’s fundamental equality is a signal of our time discerned by the Vatican Council II like an action of God´s spirit in today’s world: “Any way of discrimination in the fundamental rights of the person, either social of cultural, by cause of  the sex, race, colour, social condition, language or religion, must be overcome and eliminated since it is contrary to God´s plan” (GS 29).

10. According to God´s project, husband and wife are called to form “only one flesh” (Gn 2, 24). Such is the original figure of the marriage in a world that, as far as coming from God´s hands, is good, very good, a world human and habitable, a garden (2, 8). The relationship between husband and wife is harmonious, communication transparent: “Both were naked… but they were not ashamed one of the other” (2, 25). Nevertheless, something provokes the loss of that figure, the curse, the lack of affection, the abandonment.

11. With several images, the narration in Gn 3 unmasks the temptation, the attraction of the Cananean worship, the sacred prostitution, masculine and feminine (Dt 23, 18; Os 4, 13 – 14), a project of life contrary to God´s word, an idolism: “you will be like gods”, like Baal and Asera (Jdg 3, 7). In that context, the serpent (Cananean divinity) appears like a symbol of life, wisdom, fertility, eternal youth. Really, the forbidden tree is only one (3, 3), but all of them look the same (3, 1). It is the limit that, according to God´s word, husband and wife should not cross.

12. The narration puts out that husband and wife, in their deepest mistake, avoid God´s presence. They hide. God has the habit to walk through the garden of human history. But husband and wife believe that God does not interest them to live, that God is envious, enemy of their happiness and of their life: “Your eyes will open and you will be like gods, knowing the well and the evil” (3, 5). God appears not already like an illusion, but like a lie, an oppression from which it is impossible to get free. They themselves will know (and decide) on their own what is good and what is bad.

13. The essential lie (see Jn 8, 44) captivates because of its false appearance of good. The forbidden fruit appears good to eat, appetizing and excellent to get wisdom (Gn 3, 6). The temptation of being like gods presents itself like feasible and attractive. Husband and wife eat the forbidden fruit. But from there, historical experience and present experience, come a series of ruptures: with God, with the rest, with oneself.

14. According to the social model of the ancient world, the woman is at home and the man at work. This rolls distribution is going through a deep revision. The woman (in submission situation) is not the queen of the home, but the slave; the love relationship becomes domination. The work is not a sane and creative activity, but a hard, prickly and slaving reality; labour relationship degenerates in exploitation (Gn 3, 16 – 18). This is not the world God wanted. Woman’s submission and husband’s exploitation do not belong to God´s original project; they are the human sin consequence. Enmity between the serpent and the woman will be a deep key of history (3, 15). The temptation of being like gods also affects the meaning of the life and the way in which death is considered, like dust (3, 19).
15. In the Bible the myth of Lilith appears in a passage of Isaiah, applied to Babylon: “From generation to generation the land will lie desolate and none will ever pass through it. It will be the haunt of pelican and wild hog, the dwelling place of the owl and the hawk. God has decided to make it empty, he has destined it to be desolate. There will be no more kings to be proclaimed, no princes to be acclaimed,  for the nobility will vanish in a kingdom doomed to perish. Thorns will grow over the castles, nettles and brambles over the citadels; the place will be a haunt of reptiles, an abode of owls and ostriches. Wild beasts will meet there, wild goats will call to one another; there will the night creatures alight  to find for themselves a resting place. There will the great owl make her nest to lay and hatch and also find rest. (Lilith, Jerusalem Bible) There will the vultures gather,  each with its mate. (Is 34, 10 – 15). It is the judgement of the powerful city, prostitute of history, and it is also the end of the exile (597 – 538; Is 34, 16 – 17)

16. The situation to the female changes with the experience of the Gospel. The woman participates in Jesus´ mission and in the first communities. There are the women who accompany Jesus (Lk 8, 1 -3) and the Samaritan female who announces the Gospel (Jn 4, 28 – 29). They announce the resurrection of the Lord to the eleven and to all the rest (Lk 24, 10; Jn 20, 18), they have the floor in the community: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesize” (Acts 2, 17; 1 Co 11, 5); many stand out in the service of the Gospel (Col 4, 15; 1 Co 1, 11; Rm 16; Phil 4, 2); there are female prophets (Acts 21, 9) and deaconess (Rm 16, 1). Besides the large communities, like Jerusalem or Antioch, there are the small communities, which leadership could be carried out by the head of the family, male or female  (Rm 16, 3 – 5; Col 4, 15). In Philipus, the community starts with a group of women; they have a predominant roll (Acts 16, 12.15; Phil 4, 2)

17. In the letter to the Galatians, the letter of the Christian freedom, Paul says: “Here there is no longer any difference between Jew or Greek, or between slave or freed, or between man and woman: but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Ga 3, 28). The Gospel questions the circumcision and the Jewish law, the slavery and the submission. Jerusalem council means to the gentiles converted to the Christianism the liberation of the Jewish law (Acts 15, 18). This is Paul’s fight: “All you who pretend to become righteous through the observance of the Law have separated yourselves from Christ and have fallen away from grace.” (Ga 5, 4)

18. Then, how are the laws about female submission, the veil and the silence explained? It seems to us that there is an interpolation, a later addition to Paul’s letters, carried out, besides, by adversaries defenders of the Jewish law. Paul saw it in advance: “I know that after I leave, ruthless wolves will come among you and not spare the flock.” (Acts 20, 29).

19. Let us see. In the letter to the Colossians we find what are called mirrors or home manuals, that regulate the relationship of the typical dependency of the old world: husband-wife, parents-children, masters-slaves (Col 3, 18 – 4,1). A similar passage, larger, appears in the letter to the Ephesians (Eph 5, 22 – 6, 9; see 1 Tm 2, 8 – 15; 5, 3 – 8; 6, 1 – 2; Tt 2, 1 – 10; 1 P 2, 13 – 3,7).

20. In the letter to the Corinthians, talking about the good order in the assemblies, the female is ordered to cover the head, id est, to put a veil over it. (1 Co 11, 3 – 12). Behind the imposition of the veil, it is the Jewish law. In the Jewish world the woman who goes out without having the head covered could be dismissed by her husband without any type of compensation: “These are the women that must be dismissed without giving them any compensation: that who breaks the law of Moses or the Jewish law. Which is the law of Moses? If, for instance, she gives food with taking out the tithe, or if she has sexual relations during the period of menstruation… Which is the Jewish law? If she goes out with the hair loose, or if she knits in the square, or if she talks with any man” (The Misnah, Third Order, VII, 6)

21. A little later on in the letter to the Corinthians, silence is imposed to the woman, it is ordered that the woman keep silent in the assembly (1 Co 14, 34 – 35). But then, how can she prophesize, according to what has been said before? (11, 5). How can an author of the letter say two things, contradictory in themselves? With reason, it has been denounced here a later interposition that alters the Pauline text (G. Fitzer, 1963, see note in the Bible of Jerusalem, 1998: some manuscripts place the verses  34 – 35 after the verse 40). Besides, this new imposition is presented like a Lord’s mandate (14, 37).

22.  In the first letter to Timothy we also find the law of silence and of the submission (1 Tm 2, 11 – 13). According to the Jewish law, “women, slaves and minors (they are not included in the number which is the minimum) to make the invitation (to the thanksgiving in common)”: the woman “she neither may be teacher of children” (The Misnah, First Order, VII, 2 and Third Order, IV, 13). The submission of the woman limits her freedom in all aspects, in the religious service too.

23. Albino Luciani already had said it in a wedding: “Prophet Isaiah to express God´s tenderness towards the man and towards the woman gives us a fascinating image, he will say that God is also Mother” (Is 49, 15; 16, 13). Of course, he called more attention, when he said that being Pope, on September the 10th at the time of the Angelus. The women who were at Saint Peter’s square burst in a thunderous applause that extended every where. John Paul I said: “We are the object of an unbeatable love on the part of God. We know it: he always has his eyes open upon us, even when it looks it is night. He is daddy; even more, he is mother”

24. God is never described or invoked like mother neither in the Old nor in the New Testament, said Ratzinger. In the Bible, mother is an image, but it is not a title of God. Why? We can try to understand it only groping. Naturally, God is neither man nor woman, but just that, God. The creator of man and woman. Feminine deities who circled the people of Israel and  the Church of the New Testament show an image of the relationship between God and the world clearly antithetic to the image of God in the Bible” (Jesus of Nazareth, 174).

25. Before the entrusted mission, Moses defends himself: Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to take the Israelites out of Egypt? The Lord answers: “I will be with you… You will say this to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your parents, the God of Abraham, of Isaac an of Jacob, has sent me to you. By this name they shall call upon me for all generations to come” (Ex 3, 12 – 15). There has been many speculations about the name of God. Everything is simpler. What is here at stake is the alliance ordinary formula: the Lord is with us. It is a God of the living ones, not of the dead ones, the God of our fathers and of our mothers, of those who for us are “like angels” (Lk 20, 36)

26. In dialogue with today’s world, it is necessary to discern. The Church, says the Council, “has the permanent duty to scrutinize the signs of the times and to interpret them in the light of the Gospel”, “large discrepancies are originated in the family, may be due to the demographic, economical and social pressing conditions, or by the difficulties coming up between successive generations, or also because of the social relationship between men and women” (GS 8), “the woman, where she has not get it yet, claims for equality in right and in fact with the man” (GS 9).

* Dialogue:
- Equality between man and woman is a signal of our time
- Different from the sexual point of view, equal in human dignity
- Both, male and female, are God´s image
- only one flesh: communion, not domination
- Temptation, idolatry: to be like gods
- the old tradition of submission does not belong to God´s project
- respecting her freedom, the woman should not become “children assassin” and “night’s demon”
- neither the male (corresponding myth, Asmodeo; see Tb 3, 8)
- God is father; even more, he is mother; God is neither man nor woman
- He is with us, He is a God of the living ones, not of those dead, the God of our parents and of our mothers.

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