Aged 13-30? Brands pay to hear your opinions Sign up and get paid in £25 vouchers Sign me up
Sign me up
Articles > Life January, 23, 2015

The new man vs. The Old Testament: why it doesn’t work

Audrey Madden
View Profile

2317

8
3.42 / 10

The Old Testament has influenced western society for thousands of years and its fundamental ideas remain prevalent today.

The traditional stories from the Old Testament deeply ingrain beliefs into American culture and set standards for moral, social, and sexual behaviour. Even though some may argue that the Old Testament no longer has an impact on modern society, individuals have been trained unconsciously by these principles that to be accepted by God, and thus modern religious society, the expression of sexuality must be restricted.

Photo by ANG SHERPA

Photo by ANG SHERPA

Without even realizing it, concepts such as sin, ideal family structure, and heaven and hell, circulate within the modern individual’s life. The traditional interpretation of the Old Testament has set a foundation for modern Christian and Jewish worldview that restricts the expression of sexuality in women, between homosexuals, and within heterosexual relationships, which ultimately creates an imbalance of power between genders.

In The Writings of the Old Testament, proper feminine behaviour is revealed through the eyes of men. Judaism and Christianity, both faithful to the Old Testament, are patriarchal religions that seek to establish societies that are structured similarly. According to Kathryn Imray, a professor of religious research at Murdoch University, the woman in the Song of Songs is portrayed as seductress dangerous to men (Imray). The woman within the poem is confident in her sexuality with her partner and therefore is a threat of power. The Song of Songs can be interpreted as a warning towards men; showing the threat a powerful woman can be to their patriarchal ideals. The male lover is so obsessed with his female lover that he becomes enslaved to her.

This is also true in Genesis with Adam and Eve. Eve is portrayed as a temptress who distracts Adam from focusing on God. The woman who is able to own her sexuality induces the downfall of the patriarchal man. Both Song of Songs and Genesis reinforce the importance of a weak woman and powerful man through its threatening portrayal of a powerful woman and weak man.
Malcolm Gladwell, the inventor of the monthly birth control pill, risked the Catholic Church’s approval by introducing a method of birth control other then the “rhythm method”. However, in order to stay in good graces, he made the pill reflect the same pattern as the traditional method of the church. Although women were given the power to control the affects of their sexual behaviour, the unnatural monthly menstrual cycle the pill produces has proved harmful, with risks including clotting and breast cancer. Even in modern society, with new inventions like birth control medication, the Church remains extremely influential on women’s sexuality.

Photo by Randy OHC

Photo by Randy OHC

Becoming more open with ideas towards sexuality will allow religious society to grow and develop into a more understanding and respectful sub-culture. The contention being held towards “who may express love towards whom” and how it is done has become too clouded by the rules and regulations being taught to us by a biblical society. Both men and women are being restricted by the traditional standards of the Old Testament. Both genders are expected to fulfill an unrealistic character outline set by the ideals taught through biblical stories.

When men no longer feel responsible for being in control, women will no longer feel responsible for being submissive. This mutual recognition of imbalance between genders will further promote equality within sexual expression. The Old Testament has proven its importance by remaining so influential, even today. However, it must be understood that society is constantly evolving and even though the stories of the Tanakh are able to remain relevant in certain respects; views towards women, men, and their sexuality must evolve as individuals do.

Rate this Article
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars
Loading...

Join our community!

Join and get £10 free credit

Earn points for completing surveys and other research opportunities

Get shopping vouchers and treat yo self!

Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. David Ogilvie

    I think youve made a good argument here, although theres a couple of things I’d like to pick you up on, if I may.

    Firstly you’ve said about how Song of Songs can be interpreted. Saying that any part of the bible ‘can be interpreted in this way’ is dangerous, because that leaves it open to saying ‘This is my interpretation, yours is different, but its only an interpretation so they can both be right’ as how english GCSE seems to teach people! At the end of the day, there is only one truth in the meanings of everything in the bible. I wont get onto what that is, as that’s a WHOLE other debate! But the things in the bible can only mean what the author intended them to mean, and not anything else.

    In terms of what Song of Songs/Song of Solomon means, my understanding is that instead of it being a warning about the ‘risks of powerful women/weak men’, its a collection of love poems between a man and a woman. Namely King Solomon and his wife. In my bible (ESV) it has a little blurb at the beginning of each book, and for this it says that Song of Solomon ‘celebrates the sexual relationship God intended for marriage’. And it ‘has also been understood as an illustration of the mutual love of Christ and his church.’
    So at the end of the day its talking about love and loving relationships, rather than the powers in a relationship.

    Also, as a Christian I cant talk for Jews and their take on this matter, but when you say ‘the Old Testament has set a foundation for modern Christian and Jewish worldview’ I would almost disagree with this.
    Yes of course Christianity has its base in the old testament, but the fundamental and crucial parts of what being a christian is about are all written about in the new testament, whether said by Jesus himself/in the 4 gospels, or in Paul’s letters to various people.

    For instance, Jesus clearly doesn’t hold men as any higher than women. The first person to see Jesus risen from the dead was a woman. (Mary), and if we assume that the resurrection was real, its safe to assume that Mary being the first to see Jesus again was planned.

    Men are talked about more in the new testament and his 12 disciples were all men, because the society at the time wouldn’t have allowed women to be disciples of a teacher/pharisee. Jesus wouldn’t have been taken seriously, but that is just down to the society unfortunately.

    In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, in chapter 5 vs 22-33, he talks about Husbands and Wives and their roles in the family. It sometimes seems that this is one of the most misinterpreted passages in the bible. People often take the first sentence ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands.. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.’ and then forget about the rest. This tells the wife to respect her husband and that ultimately his decision is final. It then goes on to say ‘Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the church’. This is massive. Christ gave up everything for the church – not only did he die, but Christ, part of the trinity, gave up his connection to God the Father, and went to Hell for 3 days. He took all the pain and sin in the world away from the church, making the church perfect and clean and beautiful. Wouldnt a marriage be so wonderful if the husband were willing to give up EVERYTHING for his wife, in order to glorify her and make her perfect?
    This passage describes a perfect marriage, where the wife would have no need to ‘submit to the husband’ because the husband holds her views highly and loves her and does what is best for her.
    The pressure is more on the husband than on the wife here.

    I hope I’ve not come across as to blunt in my response. Im trying to show that the Christian faith promotes love over everything else. If there is someone who calls themselves a Christian who is trying to put others down/make themselves ‘better’ than others, they’re not being ‘Christian’.

  2. Aaron Cheesman

    Hi Audrey,

    This is a really interesting article and I think you make some good points about how the future of Christianity should evolve.

    Your comments about the Old Testament are also fascinating, however I think it is also important to remember that the Old Testament is also a record of a society rather than simply a guidebook for society. What I mean is if you look at the Old Testament as a historic source rather than a Holy Scripture you will see a societies norms and values. Hopefully, if this kind of view can be adopted by many, change may be easier! We should not condemn the Hebrew text, rather we should seek to understand history from it.

    You comment a few times on Christianity, and I think when doing that, it is important to recognise the New Testament (if it were not for the New Testament Christianity would have no foundation). How does Jesus respond to women? What does Paul have to say on the household? These are some things to consider – perhaps in a follow up?!

    I am pleased to say that from my perspective things are moving forward! Just last week here in the UK we ordained a woman as a bishop for the first time – walls are coming down and the patriarchal presentation in the Old Testament is being moved away from.

    If you go deeper into theological studies you will see it is not so black and white as we might hope it to be. There is a huge debate around the influence culture should have and does have on society and vice versa, with different theologies occupying different stances on the matter; thus it is difficult to precisely say how much society is influenced by religion. Although I would also say that the differences in opinion between religion and culture have been partially responsible for the decline of religion, especially Christianity.

    One other thing I will mention from a theological perspective is that biblical interpretation is not a science and you cannot interpret something in the wrong way. Interpretation should be personal, reasoned and understood and if you are happy with your interpretation, that is fine. With biblical studies there are a host of interpretations and there will be disagreements but it all comes down to you theological perspective. Some advice would be to read around different interpretations and views from various commentaries, as they will give a good understanding of what to be aware of and base your interpretations on.

    Be encouraged and God bless you.

  3. Manna Shamshiri

    I fully support your views!

  4. Violeta

    Well done, I like your style of writing-straightforward and objective. And yes, how else would the patriarchal system of clerical power would be in control if not by prohibitions and threatening the layman with hell?

  5. Bill Stockley

    I think this author needs to some home work before posting. The interpretation of these biblical passages is simply wrong, and so is the information about contraception.

    • Audrey Madden

      Thanks for you comment Bill. I definitely did do my research and the birth control section info was taken from an article Malcolm glad well wrote himself.

      • Bill Stockley

        Thank you for replying Audrey. The increased risk of venous thromboembolism and cancer which occurs when taking the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) is nothing to do with the ‘unnatural monthly menstrual cycle the pill produces’. The pill suppresses menstruation until it is withdrawn – normally a 7 day pill free period each month (so as to reassure women they are not pregnant and to allow endometrial shedding). Any increased exposure to oestrogens, such as the COCP, will cause this. Consequently it is wrong to attribute these adverse effects to pressure from the Catholic church.

        As a Christian, what I think is more important is to address is your interpretation of Genesis and the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon is actually a celebration of love and intimacy (in the context God intended, which this and other parts of the bible reveal to be an exclusive heterosexual marriage), and nothing to do with presenting women as dangerous seducers of men. Likewise, in Genesis, Adam is just as culpable as Eve for disobeying God. Your statement that Genesis shows that ‘The woman who is able to own her sexuality induces the downfall of the patriarchal man’ is reading into the text what is not there. I also do not see how her sexuality comes into it at all! I think you have missed the central point of the text, the message of Genesis 3 is that mankind (both men and women) has chosen to reject God’s rule, (which is a decision he permits as he has given us free will). Ultimately this broken relationship is what the rest of the bible addresses, culminating in Christ coming to earth and being killed and then resurrected to restore our relationship with God which was broken in the Garden of Eden. If you genuinely want to understand the bible (which I hope you do, especially if you are going to try and critique it), then it must be read in the context of this central message, and if you want to find out about this then I suggest you read one of the gospels (Mark is the shortest) which records the life of Christ in first century Palestine. Thank you for your thoughts, but please do not misrepresent my religion.

  6. Mohammed Ashil

    Being simple, straight forward and educated.As i know majority off westerns belive in practical life and facts…………

    We all know that more body exposure leads to more sexual attraction irrespective of gender
    and experiments have already proven it.

    Insted of knowing this we are not thinking logically and changing ourselves.insted we talk about freedom at the same time we ask for protection which is realy funny.

    Protection lies in your hand.It may be new man or old and it may be old testament or new testament.
    every thing lies within us even after knowing what is right and what is wrong we are not ready to accept the truth because we don’t wanna bow.And comming to the extreme part were few of our own brothers cannot be changed…….All five fingers of the same hand are not alike.

    Simpl conclusion be a change change your self…….change tats what matters

    Apostal of change