Friend of mine recently posted on his Facebook page ‘everyone is a biblical literalist until you mention Gluttony’. While this statement made me laugh (mostly at myself) it also holds a certain amount of truth.
Through out my time at bible college on of the things I spent a lot of my time doing was engaging with the world behind the text to understand the cultures (mostly of the New Testament) better and to see how the theology in the text influenced the way people lived within their culture.
Keeping in mind what was said about biblical literalism it’s something I’ve noticed that there appears, at least ethically, to be a divide in peoples minds in the way people treat the Old Testament and New Testament cannon.. Mostly that everything in the NT should be taken literally, but the OT are nice stories about God (especially when looking at Genesis and the wider Pentateuch).
An example; Genesis 19:1-29 is a narrative about Lot, his daughters, some V.I.P’s and a village mob. Now, in the ancient near east, women (historically) were seen as a serious commodity to be traded for economic or familial alliances between nomadic tribes. Lot, as the story tells us, has two virgin daughters (bonus!). These two at a trade in value could have brought in great economic gain if they had been traded with the right husband and family (think about the passage later in Genesis with Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and her rape).
However, in Genesis 19, Lot finds himself in a moral dilemma.. He has guests! Hospitality in the ANE was a massive part of the culture of the day. The problem here is the mob that is gathering at his door threatening to do unruly things to them..
But not to fear because Lot is a shrewd businessman. He offers to trade his daughters (as a commodity) in order to protect his guests. Though he’ll lose out economically in the long run, he will at least have secured a ‘moral’ victory of sorts. This seems like a good trade.
Clearly today, because of our own culture in the UK, I hope it is safe to say we no longer see the organised gang raping of women as a morally sound way to protect guests at our house. I think that is a fairly safe statement to make.. But why is it that when we open the NT, to passages about women and their role (or use) in life and the church do some people cling to biblical literalism?
If it is no longer acceptable to trade women for safety, for cultural reasons, why is it still not acceptable in some parts of society for women to have equal roles as men in society, based off other later passages of the bible?