Is the Bible sexist? A biblical journey to answer this essential question

“Is the Bible sexist? »Is the title of Valérie Duval-Poujol's latest book published by Editions Footprint, and also the question it tackles in this book. The author believes that despite the patriarchal culture in which she is rooted, the Bible conveys a liberating message for women.

Questioned by InfoChrétienne, theologian Valérie Duval-Poujol looks back on the genesis of her book and invites us to seek answers to this essential question with a theological approach. 

InfoChrétienne: What motivated the writing of this book?

Listening to the testimonies of my sisters in churches of all kinds, their questions about the biblical texts, their discouragement in front of these texts, their anger in front of God when they ask themselves is the Bible really sexist? Is God sexist? Do I have my place in the church? Or, do I have donations?

It is therefore the accumulation of testimonies, the questions asked every week for years during training sessions and conferences. This is what motivated me and then there was a confinement which allowed me to have a little more time to put it in writing.

It is also a subject that touches me personally. When I did my theology studies I was already told “once you find your husband you can quit”. I was very encouraged by my family but there are a lot of places where I knew it would be difficult. So when my male student colleagues at the faculty had the leisure to ask a whole bunch of other questions, for me the first question to ask myself was: is it legitimate for a woman to teach or to preach? So I spent time learning the biblical languages ​​to look for answers in the texts. It was a primary question.

IC: On the back cover, it reads: " Equal to men in rights, value and dignity, nothing and no one should prevent them [women] from putting their gifts at the service of the human and ecclesial community, as they wish. »Is this book finally also a plea on behalf of women so that they can take« their place »in our churches?

The idea is that God gives mankind gifts to make things work. There are not pink gifts and blue gifts, there are gifts given to men and women. Unfortunately, women often do not feel legitimate to exercise the gifts they have received and which nevertheless come from God. They put obstacles in their way or we put them in the way that, to use the image of Paul on the church being a body, the church finds itself as a hemiplegic body. She is half paralyzed because we don't use half of these limbs, we don't use women. Obviously, this limits his impact and his testimony of hope in this world.

IC: The title of your book is in the form of a question, so tell us, is the Bible sexist?

The quick answer is to say that the culture in which the texts are rooted is patriarchal, sexist, misogynistic and women are quite invisible in it. But the message, the perspective that is proposed, then this is liberating. This is good news, it is the translation of the word "gospel", it is good news for women today too!

Because there is a perspective, a trajectory. I show what happens in Genesis 1 and 2, what was planned in the beginning, what was in the heart of God for the relationship between men and women. Then I explain how it then degenerates into Genesis 3 and the fact that everything that follows is a consequence of what happened in that chapter, which is called the fall. By coming to earth, Jesus came to restore what was planned in the heart of the creator. And normally, the church should be following on from what Christ wanted to bring about.

IC: Is there anything in particular that you would like to share with our readers to make them want to discover your book? 

I want to encourage them to remember that the biblical text that they read, and that they often appreciate, is in French whereas the original text was written in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic and that they are often subject to the choices of translators. It's important to realize that what we read today depends on the choices of other people. Translators who were the children of their time, which has often guided their translations.

So I would like to encourage them to read this book so that they can find out what was really written in Greek or Hebrew and not just what is written in their French translation. A good example is Paul in Romans 16 verse 7 who greets a woman apostle, Junia. However, the translators embarrassed by a female apostle masculineized the first name and transformed it into Junias. As a result, today in a large number of French Bibles there is no woman apostle named Junia.

Until the thirteenth century, Junia appears in the feminine in all translations, manuscripts of the Bible, all sermons. After this period, his name was masculinized. Yet this is an important element, because if there is a woman apostle whom Paul salutes as a collaborator, it is because these are the other texts that we have misunderstood!

IC: And maybe also a point for our readers in particular?

For readers, for women, I would like to tell them that in the Bible there are lots of very inspiring portraits of women for today. I want to invite them to read my book, to discover the women they do not know, to introduce them, for example, to the prophetess Houldah, whom we hardly ever talk about, or even Phoebe who is also a collaborator of Paul.

I also invite them to revisit portraits of women they think they know to see how they are encouraging. Whether it is Deborah or Mary Magdalene who was nicknamed "apostle of the apostles" since she was the first witness to the resurrection.

So, try to set out again to discover these women, those less known like Jeanne, Suzanne, Chloé, Appia, Nympha, those that we never talk about and those more famous to be able to rediscover good news!

Comments reported by Camille Westphal Perrier

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