Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Orthodoxy Requires Binary Reasoning


The early Hebrew anticipated that a temple virgin from among their people would conceive by divine overshadowing and bring forth the Righteous Ruler who would overcome death and lead his people to immortality.

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

The word "binary" is a nasty term for many in contemporary society. To insist that the male-female binary set is a fixed order of creation is to draw accusations of homophobia, bigotry, and misogyny. Attempts to impose gender relativity is evident in the insistence that gender is self-defined. We must talk over the loud and intrusive noise of radical gender politics and transgenderism, an expression of self-loathing.

Even among Bible believing people is difficult to have a reasonable and intelligent conversation about binary reasoning because they do not recognize the binary reasoning of Scripture. Beginning in Genesis, the sun and moon are presented as a binary set. A binary set involves two closely related entities which, when observed empirically, reveal that one of the entities is greater than its partner. Genesis 1:16 speaks of the two great lights and notes that the sun is the greater of the two. Likewise, in the male-female set, it is universally true that the human male is anatomically larger and stronger that the female. 

Not all pairs of opposites are binary sets. The element of relativity excludes a pair from the definition. For example, the tall-short contrast is relative to the observer. I am 5 feet 5 inches tall. Standing beside a Watusi warrior, I would appear to be short. However, were I to stand beside a Pygmy, I would appear to be tall.

The binary reasoning of the Bible is based on the early Hebrew priests' acute observation of patterns in creation. It prevents the biblical worldview from slipping into dualism, a view in which the two entities of a set are equal in every way. 

The Binary Feature of the Hebrew Social Structure

A detailed anthropological study of the social structure of the biblical Hebrew reveals gender balance. The social structure of the Hebrew ruler-priest caste was neither patriarchal nor egalitarian. It reveals a balance of authority between males and females. There were male prophets and female prophets, male rulers and female rulers; inheritance by male heirs and inheritance by female heirs, patrilocal residence, and matrilocal residence; and an equal distribution of rights and responsibilities between the "mother's house" and the "father's house."

Hebrew names and titles include patronymics and matronymics. and Bath-Sheba are examples. A patronymic is a personal name based on the given name of one's father or a famous male ancestor. These names are identified by the words ben or bar, meaning son or male descendant. In Numbers 13, Caleb is designated Kalev ben Jephunneh. 1 Chronicles 2:19 refers to Hur ben Kalev. An example in the New Testament is the name Bartholomew, and Anglicized version of the Aramaic patronymic Bar-Talmai. Patronymics are common in the Hebrew Bible.

In some cases, high ranking women are identified with a famous male ancestor. One example is Bath-Sheba, Solomon's mother. She was of the royal house of Sheba. This is why one of the entrance pillars of Solomon's Temple commemorates Jachin (Joktan), a name associated with the clan of Sheba.

In the Hebrew double unilineal descent pattern, both the patrilineage and the matrilineage are recognized and honored, but in different ways. The cousin bride's prerogative to name her firstborn son after her father insured her ancestry would be honored among her descendants. Lamech the Elder (Gen 4) had a daughter Naamah. She married her patrilineal cousin Methuselah (Gen. 5) and named their first-born son Lamech after her father.

The Hebrew persons named in the Genesis king lists acknowledge both female and male ancestors (cognatic descent). Cognatic kin are blood relatives who acknowledge both maternal and paternal ancestors. The Hebrew practiced caste endogamy, so all were related by both blood and marriage.

In the biblical texts, women of authority are not named as frequently as men of authority simply because the Hebrew were a caste of ruler-priests and women never served as priests. To be right believing means to uphold the received tradition in full. That tradition never involved females at the altar or men in the birthing chamber.

Women and men have different roles in God's plan and design. The priesthood of the Church emerges from the oldest known priesthood, that of the early Hebrew ruler-priests (4200-2000 BC). It is a received tradition and sacred unto God. Only males offered blood sacrifice at the altars. Women were not permitted in the area where animals were sacrificed. Likewise, men were not permitted in the birthing chambers where women shed blood in childbirth. These distinct types of blood work speak of death and life and the two were never to be confused. Therefore, the blood work of the Hebrew priests and the blood work of the Hebrew women never shared the same space. That received tradition must be preserved because it speaks of divine mysteries.

Gender Balance of the Biblical Narratives

The Hebrew gender balance is evident in the biblical narratives which give equal attention to males and females. The blood symbolism of the Passover associated with Moses has a parallel in the blood symbolism of the scarlet cord associated with Rahab. 

The abusive behavior of drunken Noah toward his sons has a parallel in the abusive behavior of drunken Lot toward his daughters.

The gender balance is evident in the New Testament narratives also. When Jesus was presented in the temple His identity as Messiah was attested by the priest Simeon and the prophetess Anna. 

Men and women are among Jesus’ followers. The women reportedly provided many of the material needs of Jesus and the Disciples. Jesus restored life to Jairus’ daughter (daughter to father) and life to the son of the widow of Nain (son to mother). 

Jesus’ parables in Luke 15 involve a male seeking a lost sheep and a female seeking a lost coin. Paul commends both men and women to the Gospel ministry. Among them are Apollos, Priscilla, and Phoebe, a leader from the church at Cenchreae, a port city near Corinth. Paul attaches to Phoebe the title of prostatis, meaning a female patron or benefactor.

To understand the gender balance of the early Hebrew, we must dismiss the false narrative that their social structure was patriarchal. The traits of a patriarchy do not apply to the biblical Hebrew from whom we receive the earliest elements of the Messianic Faith we call "Christianity." There were Hebrew women of authority. Line of descent was traced through high-status wives, especially the cousin brides. Residential arrangements included neolocal, avunculocal, matrilocal, and patrilocal, and the biblical data reveals that the responsibilities and rights of males and females were balanced, yet distinct.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome. Please stay on topic and provide examples to support your point.