воскресенье, 20 марта 2016 г.

Helper - warrior or assistant?

A good friend of mine recently posted a link to a short article in which the writer, presumably a young Christian lady, shares her frustration with traditional interpretations of Eve as a submissive wife and homemaker. She then goes on to share the results of a word search in which the word 'helper' in Genesis 2:18,20, traditionally understood to refer to Eve's subordinate role vis-a-vis Adam, is shown normally to reference to God and usually in a military context. Helper, so the argument goes, denotes not 'assistant' but something along the lines of 'warrior'. The young lady, whom I believe is called Carolyn, found this new meaning resolved her frustration and affirmed her in a way that the traditional interpretations did not.

I expressed my doubts first obliquely and then trying to identify what I see as the flaw in arriving at such a conclusion in such a way. I have since been challenged, "Where is your biblical case for 'ezer' meaning 'assistant'?" This is my attempt to answer.

First of all, let me say that I embrace the shared assumption that it is the Creator's action and His stated intentions at the beginning to the first man and woman which rightly determine our identity and calling as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. That is to say that in the event that I or indeed someone else might find this unpalatable, un-liberating or similar, then it is not Scripture which needs to be reinterpreted, but me. If, for example, I as a man am not comfortable with the notion of being responsible or do not like the idea of sacrificially loving my wife as Christ loved the church ("I feel 'like' or 'tolerate' makes more sense to me."), then that is, to put it bluntly, my problem. A disconnect between the Bible and my condition may well be a signal that I have misinterpreted it, but it may just as well be a signal that it is I who am off-centre.

Secondly, whatever it is that Eve is called to do (to assist or be a warrior), she is to do so *for Adam*. The context of this passage is that Eve is created because it is not good for Adam to be alone. Eve is created after Adam. Eve is created from Adam. Eve is created for Adam. Genesis 2 makes it very clear that Eve is not like one of the other animals. She is flesh of Adam's flesh, she is a helper 'suitable' for him. She is his equal. But there is also a narrative of derivation and of headship - although not, I hasten to add, one of domination or inequality. While Adam and Eve are both created, Adam is created first and Eve second. While Adam and Eve are of the same flesh, it is Eve who is created from Adam and not Adam from Eve. And it is in response to Adam's need that Eve is created, not vice versa. Likewise, it is Adam who names Eve, not the other way around. As a result, for example, the text refers to 'the man and his woman' not 'the woman and her man' (vv. 24,25). The line of argument I am trying to reproduce here is along the lines of 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2.

Thirdly, in asserting that 'ezer' in Genesis 2:18,20 means 'warrior' your argument would be made stronger by showing examples of women who gave such warrior-help either to their husbands or in general, thus fulfilling God's calling and confirming your interpretation. The military contexts which the article references all refer to God or to men. Where are the references to women giving help in a warrior context (even in a metaphorical sense)? Who are the warrior-wives of the Old Testament? Why such a 'missing link'? 1 Peter holds up Sarah has an example of a wife who called her husband Lord. Likewise, when Ruth married Boaz, the people said, "May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah." The book of Proverbs praises the resourceful wife who makes business decisions and is not confined to the home, but she too is a wife and mother submitting to her husband. There are women called to the path of singleness, but - it seems to me - they do so following the differentiated roles of men and women. This is even true in the narrative about Deborah. How do you read the logic of Deborah's words in Judges 4:9? It is only Jael's action in Judges 4:21 which corresponds to ezer-as-warrior. The word study needs to be borne out in specific examples.

Fourthly, I think that an approach which draws huge conclusions from the use of a single word, is liable to draw further, more tenuous conclusions, themselves not constrained or driven by exegetical evidence, but by more subjective demands. If Eve is the warrior, who is Adam? The vulnerable one who needs to be defended? The hunted? Such tenuous conclusions can only be avoided if all the Biblical evidence is heeded and not merely one thread.

Fifthly, and I have deliberately left this point till last, the word 'traditional'. We are not the first and not the only readers of Scripture. Before us have gone many generations of readers and interpreters, including the translators of the Septuagint. Alongside us are countless other believers. And then there's us - by which I mean our postmodern generation. Why is it that only we have come to question the interpretation that Eve, Adam's equal, also submitted to him as her head, helping him in his calling? Why have so many other readers of Scripture interpreted it in this way? Why this traditional interpretation? Of course, they may all be wrong - after all, it is Scripture which is authoritative, not its interpretation. Or maybe we are wrong and they are right?

"Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." 

2 комментария:

  1. On a minor point, she doesn't seem to be that young - she's a grandmother - and she's written several books including case studies of women in the Bible: