Hebrew Mind vs. Greek Mind
by Brad Scott
THE GREEK VIEW OF THE GENDERS
There are some major differences between earlier Greek thought and Aristotelian thought. The male was always considered superior to the female, but the reasons seem to shift as philosophy became more popular. Perhaps the most obvious difference between Greek and Hebrew thinking in this matter concerns the structure of the bodies. In Homer's time, the female gender was viewed inferior only with respect to how much work was accomplished, compared to the males. Plowing, wood cutting, and heavy agricultural duties were viewed as being more directly related to everyone's survival, and thus carried more weight (pun intended). Women, at first, were never viewed as having inferior intellect. Women and men were seen from a scriptural point of view before Homer's time. However, as time progressed, philosophy became more important in Greek everyday life. As more and more thinkers pondered life, the more inferior women became. The period of time between Socrates and Plato was the building of the polis or city/state. As the great cities became the places to live, the more the gender roles began to merge. This was a significant change in thinking. It was the philosophies of the time that generated these changes. Plato had created a utopia of city/state thinking. Male and female guardians lived in shared houses, ate in the same halls, and exercised in the same gymnasiums. Their children were raised as a group in a common environment by special caretakers. Today we would call these day care centers, for it takes a village to raise a child! This was seen as a freeing of the women to rule equally with men. Children were taught and raised by the state, and educated in mathematics, astronomy, and metaphysics to gain the knowledge that Plato in his "Republic" presented as necessary for the common good. He said that such a state was necessarily authoritarian because only the ruling class would possess the knowledge to determine its policies and make decisions determining who is allowed to mate with whom to produce the best children. Remember that, just like the gods, superiority is the goal. The means by which one achieves superiority is not a concern. The end justifies the means.
The eventual blending of the sexes helped to achieve the superior culture. Men would dress and groom themselves as women and vice versa. Sha'ul addressed (pun intended) some of these issues in his epistles. Fathers and mothers were part of the ruling class and left their children to be educated by the state. The poorer classes, however, could not afford this education and were forced to teach their own children. Self-taught children could not hold or reach public positions, of course. Mothers who did not work and stayed home to teach their children were on the lowest rung.
This changed somewhat during Aristotle's time. Aristotle taught that women were by nature inferior to men. Their inferior natures were not limited to the physical, but in virtually every area. He believed and taught that women were actually incomplete males. Shortly after this, the groups known as the Sceptics and the Cynics began to move Greek thinking back to the unisex ways of earlier thought. Since enlightened men and women were the same good sanctified souls, then there was no reason to express any differences on the outside, since the body was irrelevant anyway. Zeno taught that unisex clothing should be worn as a way to obliterate unnecessary distinctions between women and men. The Cynics ostentatiously rejected every convention of ordinary life. Whatever was natural was good and could be done without shame before anyone. Their teachings led to some of the most degrading public displays imaginable. By the way, the word Cynic means like a dog. Throughout most of Greek history, the female had gone from subservient roles, to virtually no distinction of roles, back to subservient, and back again to unisex. What is most ironic about all this is the Greek religious view of the female. The soul was seen as feminine, and much adoration was given to the various female goddesses. However, the goddesses were revered for their reproductive activities. This philosophy remained faithful to the other worldy view of the Greeks. Goddesses were put on a pedestal in the heavenlies and abused here on earth. And why not? All material things were evil anyway, right guys? What hypocrisy.
THE HEBREW VIEW OF THE GENDERS
The scriptural view of the genders goes back to the garden. The male and female were seen as equal in purpose and importance with respect to their oneness in unity. Both man and woman were less than what they were created to be without each other. Man was not one unless woman was with him. Very few positive scriptural commands deal with bachelors or single women. These roles were not meant to be. Male and female were both created with different functions. Neither function is ever mentioned as being lessor or greater than the other. The common stereotype of the Hebrew man or woman is simply a product of erroneous teaching. No God-fearing Hebrew ever considered the women to be inferior in any way. Motherhood was the most important function in the family unit. There was never any confusion as to male and female functions. The raising and training of children was of paramount importance in the family. Without the benefit of YHVH's infinite knowledge, man would be left alone to daily choose who is assigned to what function. The woman's role as caretaker of the future generations was the most important function in the home. The male, according to design, was to work by the sweat of his brow. Working was seen as a supportive role in the totality of the family structure. The father and the mother were responsible for the education of the children. Children were not left to be indoctrinated by educators who did not have their child's absolute best interest in mind. Attention was not to be divided. Knowledge in the Creator's words was paramount, and learning the father's trade was crucial. Males looked distinct from females. Different clothes, grooming, and social activity were observed. Women did not gather with the men. This kept men's eyes on their own wives, for example. When men led in religious observance or made decisions, it was always an expression of two minds as one. Men think differently than women, and only a decision based upon the combination of his mind and his wife's could be rendered justly. There was no blending or swapping of roles. Man's role was to rule, but man could not effectively rule without the woman. This is why an elder's qualification was to be the husband of one wife. I do believe an entire semester could be devoted to this subject alone, to explain all the whys of this thinking. There are distinct and time tested differences in the functions of men and women in Hebrew thinking. The church or the culture does not define the functions or change them. As you read the Tanakh you will clearly see no problems or complaining about the different roles of the genders. It is only when YHVH's people are mixed with the nations do you begin to detect any protesting. When another culture or belief system enters the paradigm, only then do you see the shift take place. What was evil becomes good, and what was good becomes evil. What used to be shameful soon becomes acceptable for the sake of rights or freedom. What used to be holy and righteous becomes archaic, old fashioned, and even absurd. The scriptural roles for women as mothers and wives were cherished because they were publically and socially exalted and glorified. The education of children was shared equally between the father and mother. YHVH's word was a daily part of living. It is only because of the emergence of the Rabbinical system, did the art of diligent study and knowledge shift from a family event to the sole possession of the Rabbi's. What used to be "go ask your father and mother" now became "go ask the Rabbi". The Rabbinical system retained much of Torah, but this system rose to power in the height of Hellenism.
There are a lot of questions to be asked concerning the exchanging or blending of gender functions. Many of the most logical questions can be answered. The problem began long before there was any "women's rights" movements. The answers are not easy because the whole subject is a giant sequential vortex. Our culture abandoned scriptural thinking long ago, and what we are experiencing is at least five generations removed from the causes. I believe that most of our cultural problems with sexual diseases, genders, homosexuality, divorce, and violent homes is based on an abandonment of scriptural gender roles and the proper distinction of men and women.
Shalom Alecheim! ◊