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

Re: Ezra-Neh

On Tue, 16 Jul 1996, avigdor horovitz wrote:

> Dear Asia,
> I don't want to stir up a hornets' nest and open a discussion of women's 
> contribution to the composition of the Hebrew Bible.  There are examples 
> in the ANE of female scribes and authors- note Enheduanna daughter of 
> Sargon of Akkade who composed some beautiful hymns, as well as Nissaba 
> the goddess of the scribal art and also acredited with inspiring some 
> literary comositions.  Nonetheless, it must be proven and not only 
> asserted that women played such roles in every society.  NOte that MIriam 
> and Deborah both are said to have composed songs of victory, but, whether 
> accurate or fictitious their compsitions seem to be orally composed.  
> Also the prophetess Hulda, who is the final authority in determining how 
> to react to the newly discovered book of the law is not said to have read 
> it, and it is no less likely that the scribes who paid her a visit read 
> it for her.  
> There are women's names on seals. Does this constitute evidence of 
> literacy or does it indicate just the opposite?

Avigdor - I agree with most of the issues you have raised, and by no 
means see the assumption of female authorship as unproblematic. Just to 
recap and clarify my points in my previos post on the subject:
1) one cannot argue from a general view of women to the _absolute_ 
inability of women to take part in the creation of the canon. As you note 
itself, the "general view" did not prevent Hulda. Perhaps my comment on 
anachronism of democracy was a bit obscure, but what it meant to covey 
was that the existance of a exeptional individual that transends the 
usual boundaries, be they human or female, is a given, albeit a rarity, in 
the society we are talking about.

2) I do not think one can argue directly from existance of "undesirable" 
for women, laws, to impossibility of female law-givers. The biblical law 
is one huge system that makes life difficult for us humans - if men could 
do it to themeselves, why not women? Also, one could easily deduct from 
historical exprerience that if a women gets to a position of power in a 
male dominated society, it is quite possible, not to say likely, for her 
to be as shauvinist as any male.

Of course I do agree that in general the Biblical society [for lack of 
better term] had males in position of official power - sheer statistical 
count of the gender of Biblical characters tells us this much. However, 
neither does it absolutely prevent some female participation.

Since we restarted this thread, I might as well add another argument 
which seems to me to the point. When we talk about female participation 
in the creation of the canon, a lot depends on what we envisage as the 
circumstances of such creation. If we mean the existance of an Official 
Creator - a scribe to the king, e.g., who sits down to write it all, 
then female participation is less likely. But then, how realistic is this 
picture? On the other hand, if we mean something much more fluid, 
something like the text cristalizing into form as a result of retelling 
and reshaping, from generation to generation, this means that female 
participation is most likely. Of course in the last case, we do not have 
a female whom we can actually name and point to - nothing like Hulda or 

Best, Asia