One midrash tradition attributed the universal flood to the polygyny and patriarchy of the ancient world, which was first documented in the Hebrew scriptures with Lemekh’s wives, Adah and Zillah (Gen. 4:19). In this episode, Father Jayme transports listeners back in time, to our worship of the Great Mother Goddess of fertility and sustenance for some 35,000 years. The nascent patriarchy of the Agricultural Revolution then marginalized the “hidden” and “absent” women in scriptures. Drawing on the works of Diarmuid Ó Murchú and Marija Gimbutas, Father Jayme notes how new notions of warfare and conquest led to the creation of a new god in human image: the conquering LORD God of hosts! Father Jayme shares: “Like Cain, the Kurgan warrior spirituality conquered, putting other spiritualities to the sword and casting the long shadow of patriarchy over the land.” Thus, the quick transition in Genesis 6 from the “sons of God” dominating the “daughters of humanity,” to God’s regret that God had created humankind. Ideas of polygyny persisted, and men in the ancient world felt the right to possess sex-object wives in addition to their childbearing wives. The situation was compounded by societal structures that valued sons over daughters, viewing sons as gain and daughters as loss. Father Jayme concludes that continued sexism and patriarchy, expressed in our domination of others and of Mother Earth, have set in motion forces that may be no less destructive than the universal flood in the days of Naamah & Noach.
Have you seen the latest issue of Extraordinary Catholics magazine?
[Becky & Terry Ann 0:03]
Welcome to “Extraordinary Catholics,” a podcast for—you guessed it—extraordinary Catholics! In a world with over a billion ordinary Catholics, the Good Samaritans of Vatican-free Catholicism are truly extraordinary, seeking to model Jesus’ inclusive spirit and his discipleship of equals. Like Roman Catholicism, Inclusive Catholicism possesses valid lines of apostolic succession and shares valid sacraments. One in every ten adult Americans self-identifies as a former Roman Catholic. If we were to band together, we would form the second-largest religion in America. In Mexico, over 1,000 Roman Catholics leave the church every single day. To learn more about Inclusive Catholicism, please visit www.ExtraordinaryCatholics.faith, and join our Extraordinary Catholics Facebook group. And now, meet the host of Extraordinary Catholics, the pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church, the only inclusive Catholic community in Austin, Texas: Father Jayme Mathias!
[Father Jayme Mathias 1:19]
Welcome, extraordinary Catholics! I am Father Jayme Mathias, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas.
We thank the special saints who helped make this episode possible:
* Bishop Jerry Brohl of the Independent Roman Catholic Church in Wyandotte, Michigan;
* Bishop Kenny Von Folmar of Solomon’s Porch in Phoenix, Arizona, part of the Convergent Christian Communion;
* Bishop Theodore Feldman of the Sanctuary of Divine Providence in Birmingham, Alabama;
* Corey Hurt Montiel of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas; and
* Very Reverend Ben Jansen of the Congregation of the Servants Minor in San Diego, California, part of the Progressive Catholic Church International.
Looking to earn your wings? Visit dwy.io/podcast to join the list of saints who are stepping up to sponsor future episodes.
Can I ask you a favor? Will you prayerfully consider sharing a quick rating and or review of this podcast? You are a saint!
And now, let’s continue our exploration of the theological foundations of Inclusive Catholicism!
Cayin & Hevel
In the last episode, we spoke of Adam and Ḥavvā, Adam and Eve. Ordinary Catholics tend to gloss over the stories that follow, which detail the fall of humanity into sin and evil. They gloss over Adam and Eve’s children: Cain, Abel and Seth (Gen. 4). They skip to the couple’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson: Noah, the ninth generation after Adam and Eve (Gen. 5) and his family, who were caught up in the universal flood myth (Gen. 6-9). After some more genealogy (Gen. 10), we have the Tower of Babel and more genealogy. That brings us to the patriarchs in Genesis 11. But, before we get to the story in Genesis 12of Sarah, the matriarch of our faith, and of her husband, let’s see if there are any lessons for extraordinary Catholics in Genesis chapters 4 and 5.
Chapter 4. Adam and Ḥavvā were the two human creatures on earth, now identified as male and the more-evolved female, and they had three sons: Cayin, Hevel and Seth (Cain, Abel and Seth). Cayin, the oldest, was a farmer, and his younger brother, Hevel, was a shepherd. Hevel offered his finest, firstborn lambs to God, and God was pleased. Cayin offered God a harvest that was neither his first nor his choicest, and God was less pleased (Gen. 4:3-5). The moral of the story by a religious system interested in increasing its power and influence: You must offer your finest gifts to the temple, to the church! So, the authors of this story paint Cain as bad from the start, and, as we’ll see, he soon commits the world’s first murder.
Cain’s motive for the murder of his brother? According to rabbis, it had everything to do with...women! In her book, In the Image of God: A Feminist Commentary on the Torah, Judith Antonelli, associate editor of the Jewish Advocate, dissects the Hebrew text in light of Jewish midrash. The Hebrew language has a direct object marker called the et. Based on the number of times the et is found in Genesis 4:1-2, rabbis concluded that Cain had a twin sister, and that Abel had two twin sisters. These rabbis wrote, “An additional twin was born with Hevel, and each claimed her. Cayin claimed, ‘I will have her, because I am the firstborn,’ while Hevel maintained, ‘I must have her, because she was born with me!’” (Genesis Rabbah, 22:2).
We hear that Cain had a wife (Gen. 4:17), which is an especially-intriguing detail, since Eve had no daughters. Then, we hear nothing of the women of the next three generations. In an androcentric (or male-centered), patriarchal society, women got short shrift. Time and again, we’ll see men referred to by their names, but no mention of women. Thank God for the corrective that feminist liberation theology seeks to restore to the women who were no less important in salvation history than their husbands and brothers!
So, Cain was cursed and marked by God, so that no one would kill him—until his great, great, great, great grandson, Tubal-Cayin, the world’s first blacksmith and maker of weapons (according to Rabbi Rashi). Tubal-Cayin mistook his great, great, great, great grandfather, Cayin, for an animal, prompting his blind father, Lemekh, to shoot Cayin with his bow and arrow (Gen. 4:23). Strikingly, it sounds like Roman or Greek mythology, I know. But let’s dwell on one point that could be intriguing for extraordinary Catholics.
Adah & Zillah
How many wives were possessed by Cayin’s killer, Lemekh? Two. Adah and Zillah (Gen. 4:19). We spoke in the last episode of the stories in the Jewish midrash tradition of Adam’s two wives, Lilith and Eve, but the story of Lemekh and his wives, Adah and Zillah, is the first instance in the Hebrew scriptures of polygyny.
A bit of vocabulary. Polygamy is the practice of possessing more than one spouse. Polygamy. If a woman has more than one husband, that’s a form of polygamy known as polyandry. And, if a man has more than one wife, that’s a form of polygamy known as polygyny. Polygyny is the form of polygamy that is most evidenced in the Bible and in patriarchal societies. Polygyny: having more than one wife.
Four generations after Adam and Eve, sex was already being linked with economics and private property, kicking off a long history of men accumulating various women, and climaxing with King Solomon’s 700 wives and 300 concubines (1Kgs 11:3). 700 wives and 300 concubines are, of course, symbolic numbers, and, from the first book of the Bible, we see the power of exaggerated, symbolic numbers. Lemekh lived exactly 777 years (Gen. 5:31). Adam had his youngest son at age 130 (Gen. 5:3), and lived an additional 800 years beyond that (Gen. 5:4). At age 187, Methuselah had his son (Gen. 5:25), Lemekh, and Methuselah lived for 969 years (Gen. 5:27).
From Polygyny to Monogamy
Let’s pause and reflect on the dynamic of polygyny within the wider context of the relationship of women and men in the Hebrew Scriptures. Monogamy—lifelong dyadic relationships—is a rather new development in human history. Polygamy—having more than one spouse—was not outlawed in the Roman Empire until Constantine’s Act in 320 A.D.
It took centuries for monogamy to pick up steam. By the sixth century B.C., we see suggestions of the value of monogamy.
Monogamy was a great equalizer in a society where elite men often took many wives and concubines for themselves. Monogamy opened up an opportunity for lower class men to have wives of their own. It also began to lift the status of women, since a man could only choose one materfamilias with whom he would contract matrimony. Think of the etymology of that word, “matrimony.” In Latin, mater means mother, and monium is an action, state or condition. Ancient notions of matrimony suggested that a man would enter into a new state or condition with a single mater or mother of his children. It was a radical, new idea.
The Great Mother Goddess
Let’s step back in time some 10,000 years before the Hebrew scriptures were written. In his book, Reclaiming Spirituality, Father Diarmuid Ó Murchú notes how archaeological evidence suggests that the human race worshiped the Great Mother Goddess for some 35,000 years. Let that sink in for a moment. Ice Age art discovered at Çatalhöyük in present-day Turkey suggests that humans imagined and worshipped a Great Mother Goddess of fertility and sustenance. Since the beginning of the Paleolithic era, from roughly 40,000 B.C. until roughly 5,000 B.C., we didn’t believe in a transcendent God; we believed in an imminent Goddess, from whom we emanated, from whom we were born.
The Patriarchy of the Agricultural Revolution
Then came the Agricultural Revolution, from roughly 8,000 to 1,600 B.C., with its rise of patriarchy. Think about this: Homo erectus emerged roughly two million years ago, so we lived in a world without blatant patriarchy for nearly 97% of our history as a human species. Patriarchy is a relatively-new experiment in humanity. How did it arise?
The favorable climatic conditions of the Paleolithic Era led to a flourishing of rich vegetation from the soil. As humans, we started to learn how to farm, how to cultivate and dominate the land, and we began to settle down. Women’s lives came to be defined for their role as wives and mothers. During this period, we literally see the domestication of women and their relegation to the private sphere of life. Men came to see themselves as possessing their wives and their children, and they came to believe that the only way of ensuring that their offspring were really theirs was to control and imprison their wives at home, away from other men. Patriarchal societies always have means of control and separation.
In her work, Psychoanalysis and Feminism, British feminist psychoanalyst Juliet Mitchell writes, “The sphere of reproduction is the place of all women in patriarchal culture. Men enter the class-dominated structures of history, while women, as women, whatever their actual work in production, remained defined by kinship patterns of organization. Under patriarchal order, women are oppressed in their very psychologies of femininity.” And it’s for this reason that women are “hidden” or “absent” in the Hebrew scriptures—and largely in the Christian scriptures. In her article, “Genesis and Patriarchy” in New Blackfriars, Angela West concludes of women: “Their perspective on history is that of the defeated. To identify the bonds of sex as the realm of women in history is merely to confirm what feminist discourse has already established, namely, that sexual and familial structures are its principal terrain.”
During this Agricultural Revolution, we began to believe that we could possess the land and its produce—and greed set in. The more we had, the more we wanted, and, if we couldn’t get it legally, we would take it by force! Father Ó Murchú writes: “Tribal rivalries gradually assumed political status as land became a commodity for competition and aggrandizement. Thus was born the prototype of the nation-state, a concept totally unknown prior to this time, and, as states became more autonomous and self-reliant, they also sought to conquer more and more land for their own wealth, comfort and self-inflation. Thus were won the seeds of modern warfare, another phenomenon unknown prior to the Agricultural Revolution.”
Anthropologists are intrigued by the many anthropomorphisms that human beings create. We attribute human characteristics to objects, to animals, and, yes, to our gods. So, it was only natural that human beings began to create a god in their own image. Father Ó Murchú writes, “In the wake of the Agricultural Revolution, we adopted a different but no less anthropocentric approach. We conceptualize God in our own image and likeness, as the supreme, patriarchal Father. The next, misguided step was to assume that we could relate personally and intimately with that Supreme Being, which, in due course, justified us in becoming supreme ourselves. And from within this narcissistic will to power, we ourselves began to play God. We invented a religious ideology to lord it over others, as we envisaged God did and would always do. What happened in the wake of the Agricultural Revolution was a highly-convoluted form of idolatry: reducing, manipulating and distorting the God reality into an impressive man-made idol, in whose name enormous pseudo-spiritual power was released to validate the human urge to dominate and control.”
In short, we became barbarians, conquering fertile lands for the cattle herds of our nomadic bands, and we worshiped a conquering God, Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of the armies (or the “LORD God of hosts,” if you prefer).
The ancient Israelites found themselves at the crossroads of the Indo-European world. In her work, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, Marija Gimbutas describes the two poles in this way: “The Old European and Kurgan cultures were the antitheses of one another. The Old Europeans were sedentary horticulturalists, prone to live in large, well-planned townships. The absence of fortifications and weapons attests to the peaceful coexistence of this egalitarian civilization that was probably matrilinear and matrilocal. The Kurgan system was composed of patrilineal, socially-stratified, herding units. One economy based on farming, the other on stock breeding and grazing, produced two contrasting ideologies. The Kurgan ideology exalted virile, heroic warrior gods of the shining and thunderous sky.”
These antitheses were the basis for the sheep-and-grain myth that we spoke of in Episode 3, which we see exemplified in the Cain and Abel story of Genesis 4. Like Cain, the Kurgan warrior spirituality conquered, putting other spiritualities to the sword and casting the long shadow of patriarchy over the land.
Lest we should think that patriarchal societies are a remnant of the past:
* Even today, in many parts of the world, women are paid less on average than men for doing the same work. Justice would demand that we charge women only 79 cents on the dollar for everything that they purchase from their work.
* Even today, women in many parts of the world give up their surnames upon being married to men, raising their children with the surnames of their husbands—something that would only occur within the context of patriarchy.
* Even today, the parents of brides in many parts of the world share a dowry, or pay for the wedding reception when their daughters are married—something that would only be expected within the context of patriarchy.
* In the Latino culture, parents spend thousands of dollars on the quinceañeras, the debutante balls, of their daughters—something that makes sense only within the context of patriarchy.
* And yes, there are churches today that exclude women from leadership and from ordained ministry based solely on sex—something that could only occur within the context of patriarchy.
Lest there be any doubt, the primitive Kurgan warrior spirituality is alive and well in our world, and even in some churches.
From Dominion to Deluge
This warrior mentality and its patriarchy also shaped the Hebrew scriptures. Eve did not have two husbands, but, in Jewish midrash, Adam had two wives. Patriarchy! Lemekh had two wives (Gen. 4:23). Patriarchy! The “sons of God” married “all the daughters of humanity they chose” (Gen. 6:2). “The sons of God went into the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown” (Gen. 6:4). Divine men and human women? Patriarchy!
Within this context, listen to the very next sentence of the Hebrew scriptures: “Our God saw the great wickedness of the people of the earth, that the thoughts in their hearts fashioned nothing but evil. Our God was sorry that humankind had been created on earth. It pained God’s heart. Our God said, ‘I will wipe this human race that I have created from the face of the earth—not only the humans, but also the animals, the reptiles, and the birds of the heavens. I am sorry I ever made them’” (Gen. 6:5-7).
What wickedness are we talking about here? What wickedness was so pervasive in the world of our ancient ancestors that they imagined God regretting God’s decision to create human beings in God’s image? Guys, open your eyes! Humankind was deformed through violence, greed, and the desire for conquest. Humankind was in need of reformation due to its nascent sexism and patriarchy, which characterized the world in which the Hebrew scriptures were now being written.
Childbearing Wives & Sex Object Wives
Nowhere is this better symbolized in scriptures than through the polygyny enjoyed by men in the opening chapters of Genesis. As monogamy (or better said, monogyny) began to arise in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt—with men taking only a single wife—the idea persisted that men had the right to more than one woman: to a childbearing wife and to a sex object wife. It sounds crude, I know. I apologize to those offended by such words.
Anthropologists suggest that humankind was emerging from a sort of sexual communism, perhaps best described in Robert Briffault’s 1927 work, The Mothers. Like other mammals, our very ancient ancestors had no sense yet of marriage or commitment, until clans started coming together with a sort of “marriage,” if you will, between all the men of the clans with all the women of the clans. The technical term for this is polyandry with polygyny. Polyandry: The women of these clans now had relations with more than one man. And polygyny: The men of these clans now had relations with more than one woman.
But lest you think that we evolved from polyandry with polygyny, to monogamy (or monogyny), instead we evolved in the direction of polygyny without polyandry. That is, men could have relations with more than one woman, but women could not have relations with more than one man. Yikes!
Rabbis suggested that this was the case at the time of the flood, when men had two wives: one for childbearing and one for sexual gratification (Genesis Rabbah, 23:2). The Genesis Rabbah tells us that the childbearing wife was like a storehouse filled with produce, broader at the base and narrower at the top (Genesis Rabbah, 18:3). The sex object wife, in contrast, was made to drink mashkeh akarot, a sort of potion that served as a natural means of contraception, so that, as Judith Antonelli suggests, men could enjoy their fetish for thin playmates with broad shoulders and narrow hips—a male physique in female form. (Psychoanalyze that!) Even the 16th-century Sefer haYashar suggests that pregnant women were an abomination and that the childbearing wives of the men in scriptures lived like widows without the companionship of their husbands (Sefer haYashar, 7). And so, in accord with this history of polygyny, we find the midrash tradition of Adam’s two wives, Lilith and Eve.
In Genesis 4:19-24, we find Lemekh with his two wives, Adah and Zillah. In their midrash, rabbis speculated that Adah was the childbearing wife, since she gave birth to Jabal (Gen. 4:20), the father of the Bedouins who raised livestock. Adah also gave birth to Jubal, the Father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes (Gen. 4:21). Interestingly, Lemekh’s sex object wife, Zillah, later bore a son: Tubal-Cayin, who exercised his father’s profession of making copper and iron weapons until he was accidentally killed by his father, Lemekh (Gen. 4:22).
Naamah: The Mother of All Life
Tubal-Cayin also had a sister, Naamah, who was made famous for her marriage to a man named Noach. We often pronounce his name with a silent h—Noah—but the last character in his name in Hebrew is the same as the first letter in Chanukkah: Noach. Rabbi Rashi suggested that Adah and Zillah had no children after Lemekh’s killing of Tubal-Cayin, partly due to his killing of Cayin and Tubal-Cayin, but also because they knew that any children would be destroyed in the great flood. Hindsight is 20/20, and the Genesis Rabbah suggested that Adam knew of the coming flood as well.
According to the Hebrew version of the flood story, which we discovered during our exile in Babylon, eight people survived the flood: Naamah and her husband, Noach, and their three sons and their three daughters-in-law (Gen. 6:18). Thus, Naamah carries on Ḥavvā’s role—Eve’s role—as the mother of all life. A tremendous woman, right? Perhaps, except for a conflicting, villainizing tradition in the Zohar Leviticus, that Naamah was a demon who lived among the great waves of the sea and who, like Lilith, seduced men at night, giving birth to demons and killing human babies. The misogyny! Let’s correct that right now. Genesis 6:9 says that Noah was “a righteous man and perfectly unblemished in his generation.” Why should we think that his wife, Naamah, was any less righteous or unblemished?
The Preference of Sons over Daughters
The thing that we, as Inclusive Catholics, want to note about the flood is the view of women that is expressed in the story of Noach and Naamah. Leading up to Noach, the first 18 generations included men and women: sons and daughters. Genesis 6:1 says, “It came to pass when men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born unto them.” Then, what do we know about the relationship of Noach and Naamah? They had only sons—three sons (Gen. 10:1)—fitting with the patriarchal context in which the Hebrew scriptures were formulated.
Various Jewish authors commented on this. Bar Kappara said, “The world cannot do without either males or females, yet happy is he whose children are males, and alas for him whose children are females. The world similarly needs spice sellers and leathermakers, yet happy is he whose occupation is spice seller, and alas for him whose occupation is a leathermaker” (Baba Batra, 16b). The implication? Those who bore sons were the “spice sellers” of the ancient world—they were more blessed—and those who bore daughters were the “leathermakers” of the ancient world. The Genesis Rabbah tells the story of the father of Rabbi Shimon who expressed a similar sentiment of a preference of sons over daughters. Rabbi Shimon said, “Both wine and vinegar are needed, yet wine is needed more than vinegar. Both wheat and barley are needed, yet wheat is more needed than barley. When a man gives his daughter in marriage and incurs expenses, he says to her, ‘May you never return.’” Think about this: The Book of Genesis was written within the context of a society of patrilineal kinship and its outgrowth of patrilineal marriages. If you had a daughter, you lost your daughter to the household of her husband—and you lost the dowry that you gave to marry her off. In the ancient mind, the math was simple: Sons equal gain, daughters equal loss.
We could point a finger of blame at ancient societies, except that we continue many of these practices today. A young woman takes the last name of her husband, and she raises her children who bear the last name of her husband, thus erasing the memory of her own family. And though we have no dowry, isn’t it an expectation in many places that the bride’s parents will pay for the wedding reception? The wedding reception by the bride’s parents is a dowry in modern guise!
To be fair, Genesis 2:24 hints at matrilocal marriage: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother, and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” But we shouldn’t misinterpret this passage or think for a moment that the groom moved in with his in-laws, which might be a fair trade for a dowry.
And so, before we see an anthropomorphic God wanting to destroy humankind, we see the divinization of men in Genesis 6:2, where they are now referred to as the “sons of God” who, “saw how beautiful the daughters of humanity were, and so they took for their wives whomever they pleased.” Sheesh. The “sons of God”? The scriptures are not talking about heavenly, angelic beings coming to earth. The scriptures are talking about...men! Rabbi Nachmanides wrote that this verse, Genesis 6:2, suggested the forcible taking of women by men, even if those women were married to others (Sefer haYashar, 15).
Spoiler Alert: Virgin Rape Sparks Maccabean Revolt
Before we leave Genesis, we do well to note how this history of polygyny in the first book of the Hebrew scriptures would climax in the last the books of the Hebrew scriptures, which were actually written in Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the Seleucid (or Greek) empire. Spoiler alert: The Seleucid custom of virgin rape—of the deflowering of Jewish girls by strangers—would spark the Maccabean revolt and the events of Chanukah. More on that in a much later episode.
I conclude. Like our ancient ancestors in Genesis 4 and 5, we recognize that we stand at the precipice. The stakes are high, and continued sexism and patriarchy, expressed in our domination of others and our domination of a fragile planet, our Mother Earth, have set in motion forces that may be no less destructive than the universal flood in the days of Naamah and Noach. And, as many voices point out, dismantling sexism and patriarchy is not only good for women; it’s good for everyone.
Inclusive Catholics, in their attempt to bring sacramental justice to this world, recognize the sins of sexism and patriarchy, not only in our world today, but how the sexism in our world is rooted in ancient notions of patriarchy, which, even though they took root during the last 3% of our history as humans, are indeed difficult to uproot.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and patriarchy won’t be uprooted overnight. But all of us, extraordinary Catholics or not, do well to reflect on how it is that our own words and actions bolster patriarchy and/or dismantle it.
We do well to reflect on the texts we use for prayer, song and scripture.
We do well to reflect on how other’s lives, bodies and work are controlled by regressive laws, traditional practices, and societal institutions.
We do well to reflect on our presence in public spaces, and the privilege we might enjoy with respect to our gender roles and expectations.
We do well to think about how certain persons are silenced within certain structures and in certain settings.
We do well to think about how certain persons are silenced within certain structures, and in certain settings, including certain churches, and we do well to consider the powers at play and how we help to perpetuate those powers.
We do well to ask others how we can be better allies with and for them.
And, if we are truly brave, we do well to call out instances of sexism and misogyny, helping people to understand how their words and actions feed patriarchy and exacerbate power imbalances.
We should all be embarrassed for the way in which we, as a human race, have treated our sisters throughout history. This treatment is even more grievous when committed in the name of “Holy Mother Church.” This isn’t about women or women’s rights: It’s about human rights.
Open your eyes. Recognize this. And be...an extraordinary Catholic!
[Terry Ann & Becky 39:06]
Thank you for joining us for Extraordinary Catholics podcast with Father Jayme Mathias! Check out our directory of over 2,000 Inclusive Catholic clergy at www.ExtraordinaryCatholics.faith. Have an extraordinary day!