Reading Scripture? Love doing that. Imagine doing that though as a Palestinian (and currently when both Netenyahu and certain nationalistic prophets equate Palestinians with the Amalekites!!!)… or reading certain parts as a woman… or as a host of other people. What if one grew up with the pain of definitely not being the ‘favourite’, then go on to read about choice within family, such as God being quoted as saying:
I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau.
Yes it is a tough book at times.
I love to think (and sometimes love to say a little tongue in cheek, ‘the author of Hebrews, she says…’) that a woman (Priscilla) wrote Hebrews. It certainly does not seem that any of the other New Testament books are likely to have been written by a woman so let’s at least claim this one. (Paul does not seem an option – the style and content is just not like his. Maybe Barnabas?)
A woman? Maybe… but we read,
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel… (Heb. 11:32).
Who was ‘Barak’. In Judges 4, we read of Barak:
At that time Deborah, a prophet, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Position yourself at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand.’ ” Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”
The hero(ine)? Deborah. The ‘judge in Israel?’ Deborah. The one who gets rebuked? Barak! Yet we come to Hebrews 11 and not a mention of Deborah, and Mr. Barak is promoted to the list of heroes of faith. What on earth do we do with this? A re-writing of the history? A deliberate erasure of a woman’s part in the story?
This absence of Deborah’s name probably means Priscilla was simply not the author, but it also further highlights that there are biases in Scripture.
Scripture written in another era and not written to us. Not to be judged by our era, and for us not to live in that era. Live within the story but do not be confined to that time as if the story has been fully written, with nothing further to be said. The letters are typical of that era (genre wise) but they are ever so radical. What about Paul’s claim that we are ‘letters’? Ever so radical in our era or nothing to say?
I appreciate why people bang the drum of ‘back to Judea-Christian values’ by which is meant ‘back to the Bible’… but what if we began to think backwards to our day from the future rather than forward to our day from the past? That just might make us highly creative, provocative but deeply relevant to the situations aruond us.
It is a tough old book; but the story being told (even when the wrong names appear and Deborah does not get a mention) if we follow that story will make the book difficult to read but the rewards will be incredible.
Commands to commit genocide; damning whole people groups; gender divisions… all of that is present within what we read… but let’s read about the past and read from the future.