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This essay talks about the Jewish roots of Christianity and what it says about the role of women as an oppressed group. Overall, the theme, of women in Jewish roots, illustrates that women were typically mistreated within the community. There was minimal representation of leading women in the historical texts and they were usually subject to harsh treatment.
In the Jewish roots of Christianity, when Abraham and his wife Sarai were unable to get pregnant with a child, Sarai offered her slave, Hagar, so she could conceive Abraham’s child. In that time period, it was considered acceptable to offer slaves for sexual intercourse without their consent. The wide practice and acceptance of sexual slavery shows the awful treatment of women in the time period. Women were treated as men’s property and could be sold to other men at the time. Another example of this was in Genesis 31 when Jacob, son of Isaac, wanted to marry Racheal but Laban, her father, told him that he would have to work hard for Rachel’s hand. In the meantime, Laban married her older daughter, Leah, off to Jacob. The fact that Leah and Rachel both were sisters and yet married to the same man says a lot about what was acceptable at the time period and it also tells us how were treated since Laban gave off her older daughter, Leah, without asking her first.
Jacob had 12 sons, from his wives, Leah and Rachel, and their slaves. These 12 sons signified the 12 tribes of Israel. While the writings talk about the sons of Jacob, we have little to no texts on the daughters of Jacob. Genesis 34 mentions about one of his daughters, Dinah, but the 12 tribes of Israel were not named after any of his daughters.
One of the Jewish Laws according to the covenant was the practice of circumcision in order to be considered a Jew. This also signifies that women were not directly involved into the Jewish law since the practice of circumcision was only limited to men. The Jewish people considered women to be the out-group and hence they were exclusive of the Jewish law. Anyone who wasn’t familiar to the Jewish people were considered to be excluded from the Jewish law. Factors that predicted familiarity were geography (people close to the temple), purity markers (circumcision, dietary restrictions and temple sacrifice), family and gender.
The women at the time of the temple weren’t allowed lead the worship and neither were they allowed to worship within temple. They were all segregated from the men. Women had their own same-gender synagogues; moreover, a high percentage of men in the time period were taught to read and write when compared to the women because the education of a woman was highly doubted. Furthermore, it was also highly unusual for a woman to be involved in labor or to be a teacher for others within the community. This shows that the women were did not get a chance to show their potential neither did they get a chance to represent themselves as intellectual beings within the community. Instead, they were taught domestic duties, like cleaning, making clothes and cooking for the men. Widowed women in the Jewish roots were depicted as the poorest in the Jewish community. Without the role of a male in the lives of women, they could barely survive within the society. This was because of the lack of proper education and labor opportunities for women in the society.
Furthermore, women who were menstruating were considered unclean. They were supposed to be kept separate from everyone because every person or object they touched was then considered unclean as well. This also showed the low-level of respect and the community standing of women while they were menstruating.
During the Passover sacrifice in the early roots of Christianity, Exodus 11 states that the angel would pass over the house of Jews who had the blood of lamb over their door but would kill the first sons of those who didn’t. While this could possibly be considered good for the daughters, it also indicates that the sons were considered more important within their families than daughters, because instead of killing the “first born child”, the ancient writings talk about killing the first son.
Lastly, it should be noted that though the women were present everywhere in the Jewish society, the ancient Jewish texts talk very little about the role of women in that society. This shows that the roles of men were given more importance than those of the women. Rationally, this is the case because most of the ancient stories were written by men rather than women. Majority of the people who could read and write were men and hence, the men focused more on what they were familiar with and wrote what they considered important.
Overall, the women of ancient Judaism have been depicted to be treated very poorly within the community. They had little to no rights of their own and without the presence of a male figure within the society, their survival chances were very minimal. There is little to no evidence of leading women in the roots of Judaism and most of what we know, from the texts, does not favor their position within the society.
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