One thing I like to keep in mind when I read the Bible is that it is mostly a book written by men for men. Hebrew society and the Christian world that grew from it are strongly patriarchal. Today’s scriptures are good examples of how the masculine perspective is presented to us.
The second chapter of Genesis tells an alternate creation story from the first chapter. Authors of this second account were codifying the social structure of the day as Divinely ordained. Men are first, men are in charge and the woman comes from the man.
St. Paul, most of us will remember, was always addressing “My brothers” as he wrote. It is only recently that in our English translation of his writings has our lectors read an opening line of “My brothers and sisters”. The short reading from Hebrews today concludes with a telling reminder of the patriarchal reality. We believers are “brothers” to Paul.
The Gospel reading is the challenging interchange about marriage and divorce as presented by Mark’s Gospel. Except for the balancing statement at the end of the conversation, the entire discussion revolves around a man’s responsibility in relationships. The command of Moses referred to here is from the 24th chapter of Deuteronomy; a chapter filled with Hebrew guidelines designed to protect social cohesiveness.
It is a priority for the small nation of Israel to form tight social bonds. They were then, as they are now, surrounded by foes who would destroy them if they could. Many of the Hebrew laws which seem so absolute and constrictive by our standards were originally embraced as a way to maintain social unity and build strength of identity as the people of God.
Our challenge is to understand the message of God even when couched in patriarchal terms.
-Sister Lori High
Sisters of St. Mary of Namur . 241 Lafayette Avenue . Buffalo, New York 14213 . (716) 884-8221