Yahweh--The Patriarch: Ancient Images of God and Feminist Theology

Yahweh--The Patriarch: Ancient Images of God and Feminist Theology - Erhard S. Gerstenberger Gerstenberger aims to discover if the monotheistic God of the Israelites (and by extension Christianity and Islam) is basically a sexist God or whether the perceived sexism inherent in Him comes from somewhere else.

He starts by exploring evidence (mainly from the Old Testament, but also from other documents, and even on occasion actual archaeology(!)) as to how the God Yahweh is represented, starting in about 600BC or later (the exilic and post-exilic periods), when clearly there was a male bias to religion, back through the Monarchistic period and tribal period where surprisingly there are polytheistic Gods (male and female gendered) in Israel.

The conclusion of this investigation is that Yahweh is not a gender specific God and that the use of the male descriptive terms arose during a time of great upheaval - the expulsion of the Israelites from Israel, when a God of war was needed to unite the people against foreigners and foreign belief. Prior to this there may have been many Gods, or a Goddess worshipped in the home (outside of organised beliefs which were a predominately male preserve).

For me the most interesting observation what the 'traditional' roles of men and women - for time immemorial men have been the ones who operate in the realm external to the home - hunting, trading, farming and providing the mechanisms for group worship and rituals, whereas women looked after the home, children, gardening (i.e. growing food around the home) and for spiritual worship in the home. This has only really become to be questioned since the enlightenment and the realisation that actually all people are individuals and equal.

Gerstenberger argues, that any text written prior the the enlightenment may not have realised at all that there was an issue with gender and God at all and therefore the 'Maleness' of God was not a problem.

Obviously this is no longer the case. And having once diagnosed the issue, Gerstenberger discusses the problems this causes for the modern Judeo-Christian religious organisation. For me it all gets a bit guffy at this point, Gerstenberger doesn't believe that the bible should be re-written in a gender neutral tone, but does suggest that a neutral tone should be applied. He believes that church organisations should be reformed to allow more 'high level' female participants, but warns against the possibility of a schism.

The book was written in 1996 and we can see from recent events with female vicars and (potentially bishops) that is all going to be a bit messy.

It is an interesting, if ultimately unfulfilling read