[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Women in the Scrolls & Gnosticism

My thanks to Moshe Shulman for commenting on my inquiry about Schliffman's
chapter entitled "Women in the Scrolls."  I quoted a sentence from that
chapter that says: "Finally, he [Philo] presents a negative view of women
that is familar from some Hellenistic sources but not common in Palestinian
Judaism."  Moshe thinks I am missing the point in the Philo seems to imply a
celebacy aspect which is what Schliffman is disagreeing with.  I agree that
this chapter does contain much discussion about celibacy of the Essenes, but
I think Schliffman is going beyond the issue of celibacy.  For example, later
in the chapter he says:  "We cannot cite any parallels in the Qumran
sectarian documents that echo the negative views toward women that are
attributed to nonmarrying Essenes, although we encounter references to evil
women in other Second Temple texts that are preserved at Qumran."  While
celibacy is a substantial part of this, it seems to me that there is a very
real attempt here to says that "mainstream" Judaism, as contrasted to
Hellenistic thought, did not have a general negative view toward women. 

I also agree, as Moshe suggests, that the passages from Josephus are
primarily addressed to issues like abhorance of intermarriage and the moral
character of the royal familty.  But in the process of making those points,
it seems to me that these accounts reflect an underlying lack of regard for
women.  Perhaps this is simply a late 20th century notion that has no place
in the analysis.

Interestingly,I am working on case where one person is a zoroastrian and
another a member of a group that is called the "I am" temple and follows a
St. Germaine.  I take it this last group is sort of a modern day Gnostic
sect.  In trying to explore that subject I found the following passage in a
book entitled,  "Eunuchs For the Kingdom of Heaven, Women,  Sexuality, and
the Catholic Church"  (at p.16) by Uta Ranke-Heinemann: "Judaism in
particular was unreceptive to asceticism until the invasion of Gnosticism, as
manifiested, for example, in the Qumran sect.  The world and the matter were
not thought of as evil.  Jews did not consider overcoming the world and the
denial of life an act of piety.  And Judaism's clinging to the one, good God
as the creator of everything in existence weakened the pessimism and the
world-denying Gnostic influences on the Qumran sect.  There is no sexual
pessimism in the Judaism of the Old Testament.  Neverthelss many Catholics
find such a pessimism already rooted in the Old Testament, specifically in
the Book of Tobit, which was composed in about 200 B.C."   I thought this
quote was interesting in the context of the recent discussion of gnosticism
and the question I asked about Schliffman's chapter.  For what it is worth.
 Thanks, Mark Dunn