Alternative bible seeks to 'end submission” and empower women in holy text

Two female professors from Geneva University in Switzerland have joined theologians from around the world in creating a new take on the bible, which seeks to show women mentioned in the holy text in a new light. Twenty Protestant and Catholic women theologians across four generations ranging from thirty years old to over seventy years old, from Quebec, Switzerland, France, Africa, Belgium, and Germany came together to produce the alternative book of women.

Professor at Geneva University's Faculty of Theology Elisabeth Parmentier said they were inspired to take the action because they were tired of seeing the bible "legitimise" a “submission of women,” and "this is a book not just for women but for men, too." Ms. Parmentier said, “Our older women are the most powerful of feminists and are the strongest women in feminism. The younger people are also strong feminists, and this is interesting because it shows we have to again take-up women’s liberation today. We have come back to those old stereotypes which makes our looks more important than wisdom and also the liberation of sexual harassment. So, we really have to fight again. It’s a difficulty.”

Ms. Parmentier said the book isn’t really a bible, adding, “It’s more a series of commentaries on biblical texts used in the past for the domestication of women. We wanted to show that bible text was very empowering for women, even those (texts) which were considered to silence women or domesticate women. For example, in Gospel of Luke, there’s the famous story of Martha and Maria, the two sisters. Jesus visits them, and Martha was serving the meal and Maria was sitting at the feet of Jesus and listened to his words and this text was used to show that women one side are to serve and the other to be silent and listen to words of the church. Actually, if you read the text in Greek, the verb is not serving, the word is holding a service which can also be doing the ministry, like a deacon. In the Greek original, Martha is not serving a meal and that she could be serving communion. That she’s not just a housewife but could be a disciple who has a responsibility to serve in the church.”

When asked why men translated the bible to make women subservient, Ms. Partmentier said it was too dangerous at the time to allow women a voice as it was not acceptable in the culture and would have changed the models of behaviour. She said, “It's nothing new, but now we think that women must know this. The bible is no longer an instrument to help dominate them. It’s not right and we want the bible to be known in another way as it’s empowering for women. We want to share it with people who do not know the bible. It’s not for specialists. It’s for people who don’t know the bible to let them know that we must look at it in another way.”