The age of matriarchal "women's church" is upon us; it even has its own bible.
According to Agence France-Presse, a group of feminist theologians from both Protestant and Catholic backgrounds joined together for the creation of "A Women's Bible," which essentially reinterprets the patriarchal parts of the holy text, like St. Paul's command for wives to submit to their husbands, in favor of an egalitarian theology that emancipates women. It is a collection of essays and commentary, not an edited bible.
"Tired of seeing their holy texts used to justify the subjugation of women, a group of feminist theologians from across the Protestant-Catholic divide have joined forces to draft "A Women's Bible,'" reports AFP. "While many feminists have called for The Bible, Christianity, and religion altogether to be cast aside, an eclectic group of theologians instead insists that if interpreted properly, the Good Book can be a tool for promoting women's emancipation."
Lauriane Savoy, one of two Geneva theology professors behind "A Women's Bible" ("Une Bible des Femmes"), said she pushed for the book because "feminist values and reading the Bible are not incompatible." She created it alongside her colleague, Elisabeth Parmentier, in an effort to help people understand the proper understanding of the biblical texts. Eighteen other female theologians contributed to the text in varying degrees.
"A lot of people thought they were completely outdated with no relevance to today's values of equality," Savoy told AFP.
Much of "A Women's Bible" challenges traditional biblical understandings of certain passages. One such example is when Jesus visits the two sisters, Martha and Mary.
"It says that Martha ensures the 'service,' which has been interpreted to mean that she served the food, but the Greek word diakonia can also have other meanings, for instance it could mean she was a deacon," Parmentier says.
Even if Martha were a deacon, as Parmentier suggests, it would not change the fact that Jesus clearly favored Mary's patient listening over Martha's "service," which she self-righteously used to place herself above Mary. The male disciples were also given similar treatment at varying points, such as when they argued among themselves about who was the greatest.
"A Women's Bible" is nothing new in the Christian world; the first one arguably arrived in 1898, when American suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton enlisted 26 other women to draft "The Woman's Bible." Both Savoy and Parmentier originally wanted to translate that into 21st century text; when they realized, however, Stanton's work was too "outdated," they sought to create a bible of their own.
In this new feminist bible, Savoy says that Mary Magdalene has been reinterpreted, even though the bible already gives her preferential treatment, including Jesus appearing to her first upon His resurrection.
"She stood by Jesus, including as he was dying on the cross, when all of the male disciples were afraid. She was the first one to go to his tomb and to discover his resurrection," says Savoy. "This is a fundamental character, but she is described as a prostitute, ... and even as Jesus's lover in recent fiction."
For whatever reason, feminists have always looked to champion Mary Magdalene as some kind of biblical "Nasty Woman." However, when it comes to the actual Virgin Mary — the Mother of Christ — feminists don't necessarily like to acknowledge the fact that one of the reasons she has been so revered throughout history — Catholics even say she was crowned "queen of heaven" — is the fact she said "yes" to God when asked to carry Jesus Christ in her womb. Out of this relationship between Mary and God was born the Christian understanding of sexual complementarity, where men provide something to the world that women cannot and vice-versa.
While "A Women's Bible" presents itself as simply an egalitarian understanding of sacred scripture, other feminist interpretations are far more radical, as in the case of Professor Mary Daly of Boston College, who hated the concept of a masculine Father God so much that she desired to castrate Him.