Monday, February 04, 2008

Dead Sea Squirrels and Sappho

I want to respond to and appreciate a couple of comments on one of my recent posts but I don't have too much time, so I have to lump this all together. You will know what kind of a cook I am from this mixture.

First, Kurk has written a lovely post for me which brings me to read Carolyn Custis James blog for the first time. I had just jumped in the other day at the deep end defending her use of the term "warrior" for 'ezer.

I went to Carolyn's blog and immediately I read about "dead sea squirrels." Ha! A couple of years ago, my daughter overheard me talking to a friend, and later she said, "Mom, that is just gross! Why would you want to see dead sea squirrels? Is it the name of a rock band or something?" She must have thought I had lost my mind. Never mind, she picks up pieces of it lying around the house all the time.

From Carolyn's post on hesed and submission I read,
    Hesed and submission are not soft words. They are attributes of Jesus that every one of his followers—female or male—is called to emulate. Neither hesed nor submission are about “giving in” to the whims and wishes of others. Both are all about “giving out” from the completeness we have in Jesus and our passion for His kingdom. Ruth, Naomi and Boaz embody both of these words as they freely make thoughtful, determined, costly sacrifices for each other. Together they cause the light of the gospel to shine brightly from the pages of the Old Testament.
It sounds as if she has read Clement who wrote, 1 Clement 38,
    So in our case let the whole body be saved in Christ Jesus, and let each man be subject unto his neighbor, according as also he was appointed with his special grace. Let not the strong neglect the weak; and let the weak respect the strong. Let the rich minister aid to the poor;
That is submission. Okay, enough for dead sea squirrels.


Now for Sappho,

a woman I love to read. She wrote not only for herself but for others, for weddings, for groups of women sitting around thinking of love. Hmm. If women are expected to read Solomon, then men should read Sappho. This post is for Dave, who thinks biblical languages are impossible. Carl Conrad put this in his comment,
    ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον
    ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
    θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον, σὺ δ' αὔτα
    σύμμαχος ἔσσο.

    Come to me now, loose me
    from hard care, and all
    that my passion longs to fulfill,
    fulfill. You, Aphrodite,
    be my ally.
And there is the word "ally," the σύμμαχος, the "co-warrior." But this is a love poem. (I am a little early for Valentine's Day. Oh well.) In any case, we find the word "co-warrior" in this love poem. Sappho asks Aphrodite to be her "co-warrior," just as the psalmist asks God to be his "ally/supporter/ helper."

In fact, when I look in the little Liddell, I can see that βοηθος and σύμμαχος have almost identical meanings - assistant, ally, helper, supporter.

Two questions about σύμμαχος.

Does this refer to a subordinate?

No. She is Aphrodite.

Does this word always relate to war?

No, here it deals with love.

So, the meaning of "ally" is not "subordinate," and we can also see that this same term suits both love and war. The word σύμμαχος can mean "ally" in either love or war. And yet, it does come from the word "warrior" and is most literally translated as "co-warrior."

The problem is that we have set up a dichotomy in English between one who strives for us, and one who battles for us. In Greek μαχη is war, and battle, and quarrel and contest. The one who battles with us is our σύμμαχος or even our βοηθος.

You don't need to use a separate word for "ally" in love and "ally" in war. And you don't want a weak and subordinate "ally." So βοηθος is both the God of our trouble and the Christ of our weakness, and σύμμαχος is our co-warrior in love and war. The one who fights for us.

Is this what woman is to man, or should we be "co-warriors" for each other? In Paul's writings, we see the term συνεργος, or "co-worker." This is how he addressed women, "my co-workers." We are colleagues in study, co-workers in mission, co-warriors for each other. Adam and Eve were co-warriors.

And that is what we can learn from Sappho tonight. Eve was not Adam's warrior, she was his co-warrior.


Clay said...

I followed the links and I am very sorry about the unchristlikeness with which you were treated on that B Blog. :(

I like this post about being co-warriors. Your first ezer/warrior post intrigued but irritated me too.

I have the HUGE unmet need of "protection" and I hear from so many different Christian sources about how men/husbands/fathers are supposed to "protect".

Well, you experienced first hand just how good B men (and those like them) are at "protecting" (Roll-eyes)

I see a thread here there and EVERYWHERE of judging as "REBELLIOUS" anyone and especially any woman who does not consent without question to the "christian soup of the day"

I need to think about this, meditate some more... I am thinking that Jesus was viewed by the Pharisees as a rebel and a sinner because he "came eating and drinking".

So, when you are branded with the same brand as Jesus, is it not a badge of honor for you Suzanne? Your response to such vitriolic, unchristlike behavior is a real life-before our very eyes- example of a woman sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and refusing to revile when she is reviled.

I commend you for your good witness of Christ by your response to mistreatment. (In so doing, you role modeled genuine, Christlike, biblical submission for whoever was watching :) )

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I do not have any strong feelings about what happened on the B blog. It was very remote for me. I am concerned about how emotional some of the people who commented there and I feel sad about that.

However, I have also felt the need to be cared for and protected. I am wonderfully blessed in having older sisters who have given me that help. It was at first very disappointing to realize that, in my case, none of the men I knew have ever been in any position to help me. However, I eventually experienced the assistance of sisters and female friends and neighbours as a very powerful and protective thing. I don't think that it would be in any way appropriate to identify "help" with the greater physical strength of a man. Usually what one needs in a time of trouble is good advice, wisdom, worldly know how, financial backing and gutsy determination. Nobody has ever said that women don't have this.

Psalmist said...

Amen and amen, Clay!

I've thought for several years now that the way that the "B" men, as well as their friends who run a couple of other online venues, show the poverty of their chosen position on patriarchy, precisely by the vitriol and obvious hatred they express toward anyone who doesn't agree with them, particularly when those disagreeing are female. They have made it very clear that they have no intention of following even the most basic tenets of decent conversation with women unless the women are assenting to everything they write. They lie with impunity to and about women who disagree with them, and appear to think that's perfectly acceptable behavior.

Anyway, a large group of people has noticed the way you handled the truth with grace, as well as the despicable way you were treated for doing so. I also believe that God was honored by your witness, both in what you said and what you did not do in return for what was done to you.

If the whole episode is remote to you, I'm glad that your spirit is protecting you in that way. You'd be perfectly reasonable if you were outraged over what happened.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I really enjoy listening to an Italian band called Ataraxia, who play mediveal/ Renaissance type music with some modern elements. A lot of their songs are inspired by Sappho.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Ataraxia, freedom from worry. :-)