Christian, Jewish and Muslim woman have been the victims of Aristotle, the most influential philosopher in the western world, for more than fifteen centuries.
As opposed to the Hebrew Bible, Aristotle taught that nature ordained both the physical and the mental differences between male and female. By comparison to man, Aristotle argued, a woman is “more mischievous, more impulsive … more compassionate, … more easily moved to tears. … more jealous, and apt to scold, … more prone to despondency and less hopeful, … more void of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive…(History of Animals, 608b. 1-14).
Aristotle’s writings about Greek science and philosophy would eventually become the secular Bible of all those who sought to find universal, philosophical and metaphysical truth, by using the science of reason and logic.
And Aristotle’s views were directly opposite the teachings of the book of Genesis where “The Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helpmate (partner) beside him.” (2:18)
Genesis 2:18 says God made for Adam an ezer k’negdo (an phrase which means a helpmate opposite or against him); but the word ezer connotes strength and is usually used in reference to God’s power to help (Psalms 33:20, 70:6, 115:9 and 146:5); so a better understanding of the term is that woman was created to be a parallel helpful force equal to man.
As the rabbis of Israel taught, woman was created from man’s side to underscore that she was not meant to walk ahead of him in mastery, nor was she meant to walk behind him in a subservient manner. She was meant to walk at his side as his equal.
The rabbis further taught that the term ezer k’negdo was used to teach that when her husband was right, his wife would be there to support him with her strength…. and when her husband was wrong she would be there with her strength to oppose or restrain him.
Genesis also says, “So the Lord God caused the man to fall deeply sleep; and while asleep, God extracted from one of his sides, and then closed that place with flesh.” (2:21)
“Then the Lord God made a woman from the side taken out of man, and God brought her to the man. Then man said, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;” (2:22-3)
The Hebrew word Tsela that appears twice in these verses is often translated as rib, but in the 40 other places where Tsela appears in the Hebrew Bible, it is translated as side, sides or corners (where sides intersect). and that is how it should be translated here.
Woman is not made from man’s rib. She is made from his side: so she can stand beside him and they can stand together, side by side.
This is the meaning of God’s statement: “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper (partner) beside him.”. Woman is not a part or an appendage of her husband. A woman is an equal partner standing side by side with her husband.
This is why the first chapter of Genesis clearly states: “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female God created them. and blessed them”… (1:27-28).
Thus when husband and wife respectfully stand side by side next to each other; they are holy life partners, and they receive God’s blessing.
Of course, if a husband does not treat his wife with respect, she may still be his help mate but she will not be his blessing. The Rabbis were cognizant that many husbands disrespected their wives and expounded: “I will make a fitting helper (beside or a restraint] for him”: if he merited, she is a helper; and if not, she should restrain him.”
This is how I feel about my wife of almost 55 years. “To my wife, on no special occasion and for no other reason than; I adore you. It is better to live outside the garden with Eve than inside it without her.
Blessed be the One who brought us near together and taught me to know the goodness of her heart and the sweetness of her soul! Wheresoever she is, there be Eden.”
As the most influential philosopher in the western world over the last twenty three centuries, Aristotle had a major impact on those Christian, Islamic and Jewish religious thinkers who wished to interpret their own sacred scriptures in accordance with Aristotle’s ideas including his bad ideas about woman’s nature.
Thus, we should not be surprised that although the Hebrew Bible, which was written centuries before Aristotle lived, specifically states that Miriam, Deborah and Hulda were female prophets; there were no female rabbis, priests, or imams after his death until the twentieth century.