Hypothesis and Assumption:
“Every wise woman buildeth her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” (Proverbs 14.1) Lord so created the world, and he saw everything to be wonderful. The wonder of the wonders, the fairer of the fairest and the finer of the finest of God’s creation WOMAN; The feminine of Man. It is with her angelic and alluring being and her love, fosters a ‘Man’ into a good or an evil human being. The outcome of any religion is Universal Goodness or blessing to the Human kind. A religion paves a path for a meaningful and pious life. The Holy Bible paves a moral code with its light, leading to the Eternity. The Bible is not about women, but exclusively deals with the origin and nature of women. God so created the world; the celestial bodies, the seasons, the realms of the earth, trees, creatures on land and in water just by a word. But God created man and woman, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden with his own hands, with a purpose.
He felt the emergence to create Eve. He first created Adam in His own image with the dust. Then Lord God took one of his ribs and made a woman. He put in His breath and strength in her. Basically the thought of creation of woman came after completing the entire creation process of God. All the seven days of his creation he saw that it was good, seven times it is said in the Holy book that, “God saw that it was good.” It is amazing that only once He said, “It is not good.” This is evident from the lines from the Bible: “And the Lord said; it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ (Genesis 2.18) But the whole creation was ‘not good’ without the presence of woman. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. (Genesis 2: 21-22)
Hence, it is evident that the process of creation is completed only with the formation of composite and rich personality, ‘Woman’. As woman comes from man; the strength and beauty of woman was hiding deep inside the man. The word ‘ezer’ comes from Hebrew language, the original language of the Bible. The term ‘ezer’ in Hebrew is actually an ancient word ‘azar’ which means ‘to surround’, that is, to protect or aid; help, succor. This ‘helpmate’ is named ‘woman’ for, she was created of man.
She is one of the ribs of man, his second half. The designed proposed relationship between man-woman is well expressed by Mathew Henry in the book entitled All The Women of The Bible: If man is the head, she (woman) is the crown, a crown to her husband, the crown of the visible creation. The man was dust refined, but the woman was double-refined, one removed further from the earth…… The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.
Therefore, woman is not to be ruled over by man or to be crushed, but to be cared and loved, as the Bible pictures woman as ‘The glory of Man’. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. (I Corinthians 11:7) Hence, the status of woman is specified in the Bible. God deliberately shaped woman with His own hands and bestowed strength of her own. But, the women who have been imparted vigor and verve by God Himself; fail to notice the inborn power of being created as a WOMAN. Every woman is carefully created and intricately designed by God. It is said that as God cannot be present everywhere, He created mother. Yet most of the women are generally governed by pure materialistic interest and dearth of humanistic concerns.
Hence, there is a dire need to redefine the meaning and explore the spiritual treasure available in scriptures and literature. The status of woman is specified in the Bible. Eve, the first woman, the first wife, the first mother on earth; known to be the Mother to Mankind, who was made by God, yet had to obey man or was called helpmate to Adam. Woman suffered subordinate position in the days of ancient Israel .Even in the days of Jesus, their condition was not improved. In Hindu society, the stature of woman is ever changing. An eminent law-giver, Manu, advocates about ‘The Hindu Moral Code’:
To be mothers women were created and to be fathers men. The teacher is ten times more venerable than sub-teacher; the father a hundred times more than the teacher, but a mother, a thousand times than a father.
Here, he elevates the status of a woman, but at the same time he degrades her with a contradictory perception, where he presents her ever dependent:
Pita Rakshati Koumare
Bharta Rakshati Yauvane
Rakshanti Sithavire Putra
Na Stree Svatantra Marhati.
An ancient classical work dealing with the laws, ethics and morality denies woman’s individual existence. Accordingly the above verse, a woman should be subjected to her father, husband and children at various stages of her life. All the worst, the Quran, portrays her as a troublemaker, ‘fitna’, as she is described; one who tempts and brings trouble. Therefore, there is an ambiguity about the place of woman. The woman who is praised as ‘the glory of man’ is also regarded as ‘the root of all evils’. Woman, with her vigor and viver, plays almost a vital role in building up of the family. She is a helper, supporter and a protector. She performs all her duties at varied facets of her being as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, etc. Jephtha’s daughter, in the Bible, exemplifies an excellent responsible character.
She submits herself to die, still virgin, for her father’s promise. Shiprah and Puah, the midwives in Egypt, risk their own lives to save the Hebrew babies, Pharaoh ordered to drown at birth. Hence, there is a need to focus on the image of a woman at her various facets as a home-maker or a home-breaker. Another instance from the Bible contradicts the above characteristic of a woman: Sapphira, which means beautiful or pleasant, was an accomplice to her husband. He secretly held back some property for himself, which was to be given to church. Had she stopped him or warned him, they wouldn’t have seen their death at that early stage of their life.
Therefore, it is the woman who is almost responsible for the success or failure of her family, there by the society. According to the Bible (Proverbs 12:4), she may be a ‘crown of pride’ or ‘ rottenness in his bones’, on her husband’s head. Reverend.J.Francis Robinson of Halifax, in his article, ‘The Importance of Women’s Influence in All Religious and Benevolent Societies’ pictures the relationship between good women, homes and citizens as:
We could have no good citizens without good women……Every home has a woman in it, and some homes have good women in them……. We have no good home without good women, and we can have no good citizens without good homes; therefore, good women are essential to good citizenship.
The Bible presents a galore of exemplary women who were virtuous and became successful and some who were vicious and failed. Thus, the virtuous and vicious women selected from the Bible for the present study offers a clear perception of building up or destruction of a family or a society. Deborah, a rightful and great character in the Bible, known as ‘God’s Iron Lady’, was a Prophetess and a Judge. Her leadership quality, courage, wisdom, faith and zeal for God’s way made the people of Israel go up to her for judgment. She gave her just decisions. Her word became law. Her sound mindedness, sense of justice, decency and order made her stand for courage in a time of fear and lead the army. She was an exceptional leader to rule in her time. It was the period when a woman was treated as a donkey.
On the contrary, the women in the Bible who utilized their power, capabilities and gifts for the destruction on the top stands Jezebel who has been saddled with a reputation of the wickedest of women. This ancient queen has been denounced as a murderer, prostitute and not only an enemy to the government, but also to the God of Israel. These women stories filled with power and crafted with a purpose in difficult times, rose to the occasion with passion. Some could meet the challenges by executing their faith and courage and became successful, but others enfeebled and faltered. The chief objective of the study is to apply the Biblical perspective to some of the works of literature. Whether it is Indian or American, past or present, an undeniable fact is that, Literature is the reflection of life.
Though the Bible was written almost 2000 years ago, the themes and concepts presented in the Bible are applicable for all ages owing to Its universal applicability. The study presents certain parallels in the characteristic traits of the women in the Bible to that of the writings of few authors. Basing on the Biblical insights, God’s original design for woman, her virtues contrasted with the vicious women and to that of the society in all ages is presented to trace out women’s true source of value and power to enhance God’s work and purpose.
Almost all the writers from John Milton to John Steinbeck have been fascinated and guided by the Bible, in taking up the subject, characters, themes and plots for their literature. Milton’s Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonites, Lycidas, etc. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s progress, Alexander Pope’s, An Epistle to Dr.Abuthnot; John Dryden’s Absolem and Achitophel, etc, are a few works. The influence is also found even in the speeches of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, etc. Thus in the words of Ryken- “Virtually every page of the Bible is replete with literary technique.”
According to Lisa Wilson Davison, a professor of First Testament at Lexington Theological Seminary: Together, the First and New Testaments contain approximately 3,100 different proper names. Only around 170 of those are women’s names….. Many more female characters are present but they are nameless. The biographies of virtuous women from the Bible like Hannah, who begot a son with her faith; Mary, whose name means ‘sea of bitterness’, a home-maker who fulfills all her responsibilities, was a thoughtful, meditative, submissive and humble person; Jael, Ruth with their bravery could save their people and so on…and the vicious women like Eve, who was disobedient, discontented, thoughtless, independent of her thoughts and deeds became a curse to the human race. Sapphira and Delilah, who were dangerous and destructive, stand symbols for women of all generations who can identify themselves with one of these figures.
Miriam stands a great example in the Bible, who is both virtuous and vicious. She was a devoted sister who was protective, capable, brave, quick witted, obedient and sensitive. She was also a prophetess who led many Israelite women. Later, her ambition for power and authority motivated by pride, jealousy and envy made her lose all her influence and became a leper.
The study brings out the commonalities of the biblical virtuous and vicious women to that from Literature like Mrs.Malprop and Ms Lydia Languish in The Rivals; Lady Macbeth in Macbeth; Saroja from A Silence of Desire; Nalini from A Handful of Rice; Ammu and Baby Kochamma from The God of Small Things; Maya from Second Thoughts; Linda in Death of a Salesman; Goneril, Regan and Cardelia from King Lear; respectively. Poets like William Wordsworth, Robert Southey , Friedrich Von Schiller, a contemporary poet Maya Angelou etc, praise women for her power, virtue and triumph. William Shakespeare portrays woman as both virtuous and vicious:
In sonnet XX he says:
A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted, Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion ……… …..Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.
In his ‘Hamlet’ he says:
Frailty, thy name is woman!
The primary source is based on the Holy Bible. The importance of the Bible and its influence on literature is priceless. A great deal of English and American literature shows influence of the Bible in its works. The Bible is a living book that speaks to people’s heart at every time and place that shows order and way of life with its light. The bestselling books of all time whose importance throughout history can’t be underestimated. The Bible has its own literary implication, focusing on the literary qualities of the Bible, Leland Ryken, a literary scholar says:
The idea of the Bible as literature began with the Bible itself. To view the Bible as literature does not undermine its factuality ……. God trusted literature to teach truth…… The Bible is a beautiful work of literature, and our understanding and enjoyment of it is enhanced when we see it as such.
The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books within over a period of more than fifteen hundred years by many authors as the inspired revealed word of God: authored by the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is interrupted as literature by its repository of genres. The genres and subgenres noticeable in the Bible are narrative/history; poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic, short stories, doctrinal books; epistles; imageries; etc. All these literary devices not only exemplify the human experience but also transmit truth. So, to instruct the truth, God relied on literature. Literature presents human experience which are time and again reflected in the literary authors as “The stuff of real life.”
The Bible possesses all the features of literature, which encourages readers to share their own experience. The beauty of language, the presence of genres and the content of the Bible remain unsuspended and matchless legacy to the world of literature.
The present study demonstrates about the role of a woman virtuous, or vicious, as a home-maker or home-breaker as portrayed in the Bible and that of literature (a few past and present). An analysis of the Biblical concept of marriage and the status and role of a woman in a family structure and portrayal of the image of various facts of a woman from literature in building up of family there by society; will be undertaken.
* Reading books by various authors ; (on women writing)
* Conducting questionnaire and interacting with various people
* Collecting information through seminars
Research work already done-
ECCLESIASTICAL FAITH vs. CONTEMPORARY CONVICTION
1. The Holy Bible; The King James Version
2. Epps,Tonya.”Creation of Woman Bible Study Lesson : 2 :The Helpmeet Dilemma”. http://www.hem-of-his-garment-bible-study.org/woman-bible-study.html
3. Lockyer, Herbet. All the Women of the Bible.
4. Rao,Bhargavi P.”From Purdah to popular Culture:Anees Jung’s Unveiling India. 5. The Importance of Women’s influence in All Religious and Benevolent Societies http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/progress/suffrage/influenc.html 6. “The Importance of the Bible”.Istap.com. The Gospel of Jesus Christ. http://www.1stap.com/en/html/the origins of the bible.html
7. Trigilo, John and Kenneth Brighenti. Women in the Bible for Dummies 8. Ryken, Leland. “Literary scholar expounds upon basis that the Bible is Literature”. <22.214.171.124/search?q=cache:rKmWwedMIYOJ:sebts.wordpress.com> 9. Macarthur, John.Twelve Extra ordinary Women-How God Shaped Women of the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You. 10. Mishra ,R.K.”Psychological Exploration of Inner Mind of Indian Women : A Feminist Perspective ”.Indian Women Writing In English new Perspectives. Ed.S.Prasanna Sree. New Delhi, Sarup and Sons,2005.
* The Bible – N.I.V and King James Version
* The God of Small Things – Arundati Roy
* A Silence of Desire; A Handful of Rice – Kamala Markandaya * Esmond in India; The House Holder – Ruth Prawer Jahbvala * Fire on the Mountain – Anitha Desai
* Socialite Evenings ; Second Thoughts; Arranged Marriages by Shobha De * Phenomenal Woman; Woman Work – Maya Angelou
* The Triumph of Woman – Robert Southey
* The Ever Patient Woman – Andrew Chedid
* Sonnets ; Hamlet by William Shakespeare
* Honour to Woman; The Celebrated Woman- An Epistle By A Married Man; The