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THE

WOMAN'S BIBLE

 

by

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

 

Vol. 2:  Comments on the Old and New Testaments
From Joshua to Revelation

 

Copyright © 1898. All Rights Reserved.

 



 

EPISTLES TO TIMOTHY

CHAPTER I

 

1 Timothy ii

 

9. In like manner, also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety: not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array:

10. But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

11. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

12. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

13. For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

14. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

 



COMMENTS

by

ELIZABETH CADY STANTON

 

THE Apostle Paul, though older than Timothy, had travelled much with him, and was at one time imprisoned with him in Rome. Paul had converted Timothy to the faith and watched over him as a father. He often speaks of him as my son, and was peculiarly beloved by him. When Paul was driven from Ephesus he wrote this epistle to Timothy for his direction.

It is perhaps not fair to judge Paul by the strict letter of the word. We are not well informed of the habits of women in his time in regard to personal adornment. What Paul means by "modest apparel" (supposing the translation to be correct), we may not precisely understand. Paul speaks especially of "braided hair." In his time Paul evidently considered as of account the extreme susceptibility of his sex to the effect of the garb and adornment of women.

The Apostles all appeared to be much exercised by the ornaments and the braided hair of the women. While they insisted that women should wear long hair, they objected to having it braided lest the beautiful coils should be too attractive to men. But women had other reasons for braiding their hair beside attracting men. A compact braid was much more comfortable than individual hairs free to be blown about with every breeze.

It appears very trifling for men, commissioned to do so great a work on earth, to give so much thought to the toilets of women. Ordering the men to have their heads shaved and hair cropped, while the women were to have their locks hanging around their shoulders, looks as if they feared that the sexes were not distinguishable and that they must finish Nature's work. Woman's braids and ornaments had a deeper significance than the Apostles seem to have understood. Her necessities compelled her to look to man for sup port and protection, hence her efforts to make herself attractive are not prompted by feminine vanity, but the economic conditions of civilization.

E. C. S.

ELIZABETH CADY STANTON

 



 

COMMENTS

by

LUCINDA B. CHANDLER

 

The injunction that women should adorn themselves through good works was sensible. The Apostle did not imply that this adornment was not already possessed by women. Neither did he testify that the generations of men, of Prophets and of Apostles had been objects of the good works and all the ministrations of self-abnegation, which are required only of the mothers of men. Comparatively few women, who have fulfilled the special function which man assigns to them as their chief duty in life, lack the adornment of good works. In addition to these good works of motherhood in the family, woman has ministered to the necessities and the comfort of the sick, the feeble and the poor, through the centuries.

Could Paul have looked down to the nineteenth century with clairvoyant vision and beheld the good works of a Lucretia Mott, a Florence Nightingale, a Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton, not to mention a host of faithful mothers, he might, perhaps, have been less anxious about the apparel and the manners of his converts. Could he have foreseen a Margaret Fuller, a Maria Mitchell, or an Emma Willard, possibly he might have suspected that sex does not determine the capacity of the individual. Or, could he have had a vision of the public school system of this Republic, and witnessed the fact that a large proportion of the teachers are women, it is possible that he might have hesitated to utter so tyrannical an edict: "But I permit not a woman to teach."

Had the Apostle enjoined upon women to do good works without envy or jealousy, it would have had the weight and the wisdom of a Divine command. But that, from the earliest record of human events, woman should have been condemned and punished for trying to get knowledge, and forbidden to impart what she has learned, is the most unaccountable peculiarity of masculine wisdom. After cherishing and nursing helpless. infancy, the most necessary qualification of motherhood is that of teaching. If it is contrary to the perfect operation of human development that woman should teach, the infinite and all wise directing power of the universe has blundered. It cannot be admitted that Paul was inspired by infinite wisdom in this utterance. This was evidently the unilluminated utterance of Paul, the man, biassed by prejudice. But, it may be claimed that this edict referred especially to teaching in religious assemblies. It is strikingly inconsistent that Paul, who had proclaimed the broadest definition of human souls, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male or female, but ye are one in Christ Jesus," as the Christian idea, should have commanded the subjection of woman, and silence as essential to her proper sphere in the Church.

It is not a decade since a manifesto was issued by a religious convention bewailing the fact that woman is not only seeking to control her property, but claiming the right of the wife to control her person! This seems to be as great an offence to ecclesiasticism in this hour and this land of boasted freedom, as it was to Paul in Judea nineteen centuries ago. But the "new man," as well as the "new woman," is here. He is inspired by the Divine truth that woman is to contribute to the redemption of the race by free and enlightened motherhood. He is proving his fitness to be her companion by achieving the greatest of all victories--victory over himself. The new humanity is to be born of this higher manhood and emancipated womanhood. Then it will be possible for motherhood to "continue in sanctification."

The doctrine of woman the origin of sin, and her subjection in consequence, planted in the early Christian Church by Paul, has been a poisonous stream in Church and in State. It has debased marriage and made both canon and civil law a monstrous oppression to woman. {p. 164} M. Renan sums up concisely a mighty truth in the following words: "The writings of Paul have been a danger and a hidden rock--the causes of the principal defects of Christian theology." His teachings about woman are no longer a hidden rock, however, for, in the light of science, it is disclosed to all truth seeking Minds. How much satisfaction it would have been to the mothers adown the centuries, had there been a testimony by Mary and Elizabeth recording their experiences of motherhood. Not a statement by them, nor one about them, except what man wrote.

Under church law, woman's property, time and services were all at the husband's disposal. Woman was not rescued from slavery by the Reformation. Luther's ninety-five theses, nailed upon the church door in Wittenberg, did not assert woman's natural or religious equality with man. It was a maxim of his that "no gown worse becomes a woman, than that she should be wise." A curious old black letter volume, published in London in 1632, declares that "the reason why women have no control in parliament, why they make no laws, consent to none, abrogate none, is their original sin." The trial of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, in the seventeenth century, was chiefly for the sin of having taught men.

To-day, in free America, a wife cannot collect damages for injury to her person by a municipality. Legally her husband owns her person; and he alone can collect damages if the wife is injured by any defect or mishap for which the administration of the municipality is responsible. This was tested in the Court of Appeals in New York in 1890. The judges decided that "the time and the services of the wife belong to the husband, and if she has received wages from him it was a gift." Thus the spirit and the intent of the church law to make the wife a servant of the husband, subject to and controlled by him, and engrafted in common law, is a part of statute law operative in these United States to-day. Blackstone admits the outgrowth of common law from canon law, in saying: "Whoever wishes to gain insight into that great institution, common law, can do so most efficiently by studying canon law in regard to married women."

Jesus is not recorded as having uttered any similar claim that woman should be subject to man, or that in teaching she would be a usurper. The dominion of woman over man or of man over woman makes no part of the sayings of the Nazarene. He spoke to the individual soul, not recognizing sex as a quality of spiritual life, or as determining the sphere of action of either man or woman.

Stevens, in his "Pauline Theology," says: "Paul has been read as if he had written in the nineteenth century, or, more commonly, as if he had written in the fifth or seventeenth, as if his writings had no peculiarities arising from his own time, education and mental constitution." Down these nineteen centuries in a portion of the Christian Church the contempt for woman which Paul projected into Christianity has been perpetuated. The Protestant Evangelical Church still refuses to place her on an equality with man.

Although Paul said: "Neither is the man without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord," he taught also that the male alone is in the image of God. "For a man ought not to have his head veiled forasmuch as he is the image of God; but the woman is the glory of man." Thus he carried the spirit of the Talmud, "aggravated and re-enforced," into Christianity, represented by the following appointed daily prayer for pious Jews: "Blessed art thou, O Lord, that thou hast not made me a Gentile, an idiot nor a woman." Paul exhibits fairness in giving reasons for his peremptory mandate. "For Adam was first formed, then Eve," he says. This appears to be a weak statement for the higher position of man. If male man is first in station and authority, is superior because of priority of formation, what is his relation to "whales and every living creature that moveth which the waters bring forth, and every winged fowl after his kind," which were formed before him?

And again, "Adam was not beguiled, but, the woman being beguiled, hath fallen into transgression." There was then already existing the beguiling agency. The transgression of Eve was in listening to this existing source of error, which, in the allegory, is styled "the most subtle beast of the field which the Lord God hath made." Woman did not bring this subtle agency into activity. She was not therefore the author of sin, as has been charged. She was tempted by her desire for the knowledge which would enable her to distinguish between good and evil. According to this story, woman led the race out of the ignorance of innocence into the truth. Calvin, the commentator, says: "Adam did not fall into error, but was overcome by the allurements of his wife." It is singular that the man, who was "first formed," and therefore superior, and to whom only God has committed the office of teaching, not only was not susceptible to the temptation to acquire knowledge, but should have been the weak creature who was "overcome by the allurements of his wife."

But the story of the fall and all cognate myths and parables are far older and more universal than the ordinary reader of the Bible supposes them to be. The Bible itself in its Hebrew form is a comparatively recent compilation and adaptation of mysteries, the chief scenes of which were sculptured on temple walls and written or painted on papyri, ages before the time of Moses. History tells us, moreover, that the Book of Genesis, as it now stands, is the work not even of Moses, but of Ezra or Esdras, who lived at the time of the captivity, between five hundred and six hundred years before our era, and that he recovered it and other writings by the process of intuitional memory. "My heart," he says, "uttered understanding, and wisdom grew in my breast; for the spirit strengthened my memory."

With regard to the particular myth of the fall, the walls of ancient Thebes, Elphantine, Edfou and Karnak bear evidence that long before Moses taught, and certainly ages before Esdras wrote, its acts and symbols were embodied in the religious ceremonials of the people, of whom, according to Manetho, Moses was himself a priest. And the whole history of the fall of man is, says Sharpe, in a work on Egypt, "of Egyptian origin. The temptation of the woman by the serpent, the man by the woman, the sacred tree of knowledge, the cherubs guarding with flaming swords the door of the garden, the warfare declared between the woman and the serpent, may all be seen upon the Egyptian sculptured monuments."

This symbology signifies a deeper meaning than a material garden, a material apple, a tree and a snake. It is the relation of the soul or feminine part of man, "his living mother," to the physical and external man of sense. The temptation of woman brought the soul into the limitations of matter, of the physical. The soul derives its life from spirit, the eternal substance, God. Knowledge, through intellect alone, is of the limitation of flesh and sense. Intuition, the feminine part of reason, is the higher light. If the soul, the feminine part of man, is turned toward God, humanity is saved from the dissipations and the perversions of sensuality. Humanity is not alone dual in the two forms, male and female, but every soul is dual. The more perfect the balance in the individual of masculine and feminine, the more perfect the man or the woman. The masculine represents force, the feminine love. "Force without love can but work evil until it is spent."

Paul evidently was not learned in Egyptian lore. He did not recognize the esoteric meaning of the parable of the fall. To him it was a literal fact, apparently, and Eve was to be to all womankind the transmitter of a "curse" in maternity. We know that down to the very recent date of the introduction of anesthetics the idea prevailed that travail pains are the result of, and punishment for, the transgression of Mother Eve. It was claimed that it was wrong to attempt to remove "the curse" from woman, by mitigating her suffering in that hour of peril and of agony.

Whatever Paul may mean, it is a fact that the women of our aboriginal tribes, whose living was natural and healthful, who were not enervated by civilized customs, were not subject to the sufferings of civilized women. And it has been proven by the civilized woman that a strict observance of hygienic conditions of dress, of diet, and the mode of life, reduces the pangs of parturition. Painless child-bearing is a physiological problem; and "the curse" has never borne upon the woman whose life had been in strict accord with the laws of life. Science has come to the rescue of humanity, in the recognition of the truth, that the advancement as well as the conservation of the race is through the female. The great Apostle left no evidence that he apprehended this fact. His audacity was sublime; but it was the audacity of ignorance.

No more stupendous demonstration of the power of thought can be imagined, than is illustrated in the customs of the Church for centuries, when in the general canons were found that "No woman may approach the altar," "A woman may not baptize without extreme necessity," "Woman may not receive the eucharist under a black veil." Under canon 81 she was forbidden to write in her own name to lay Christians, but only in the name of her husband; and women were not to receive letters of friendship from any one addressed to themselves. Canon law, framed by the priesthood, compiled as early as the ninth century, has come down in effect to the nineteenth, making woman subordinate in civil law. Under canon law, wives were deprived of the control of both person and property. Canon law created marriage a sacrament "to be performed at the church door," in order to make it a source of revenue to the Church. Marriage, however, was reckoned too sinful "to be allowed for many years to take place within the sacred building consecrated to God, and deemed too holy to permit the entrance of a woman within its sacred walls at certain periods of her life."

L. B. C.

LUCINDA B. CHANDLER

 

 

Next:  TIMOTHY, CHAPTER 2

 



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