Today's Terrific Tuesday guest is JD who writes at Trees for Lunch. I can always count on JD's posts to be thoughtful; he's the kind of person who reads a LOT, is straightforward about what he believes, is not constrained by political correctness, and has a passion about the world around him.
Here's what JD has to say today:
First, a hearty "Thank You" to Tracy for letting me guest-blog at her site.
Over at my blog I've been doing a series of entries based upon the book What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? by Dr D. James Kennedy and Dr Jerry Newcombe. The book seeks to examine the impact of Jesus Christ upon Western Civilization in a variety of ways. One of those areas which I wanted to discuss today was the role of women in society before Christ's coming and after.
For female infants born in ancient times, the outlook was pretty bleak. On page 15 we read a quote by author Robin Lane Fox from his book Pagans and Christians which states the following concerning life in ancient Rome.
"In antiquity, this pattern [the postponement of marraige] is not so evident, because of the widespread habit of exposing female babies at birth. Adult girls were in shorter supply and thus their age at marraige tended to be low...Habitual exposure of babies was a further brake on the size of a family and the balance of the sexes".
Greek culture was no better as R.J.Rummel relates..
"In many cultures, government permitted, if not encouraged, the killing of handicapped or female infants or otherwise unwanted children. In the Greece of 200 B.C., for example, the murder of female infants was so common that among 6,000 families living in Delphi no more than 1 percent had two daughters. Among 79 families, nearly as many had one child as two. Among all there were only 28 daughters to 118 sons. ... But classical Greece was not unusual. In eighty-four societies spanning the Renaissance to our time, "defective" children have been killed in one-third of them."
India was another area in which the plight of women was improved by Christianity. On page 16 we read, "..infanticide-particularly for girls-was common in India, prior to the great missionary William Cary. Cary and other Christians detested seeing little ones tossed into the sea. These centuries-old practices, suttee (the practice of widows throwing themselves atop the burning funeral pyres of their dead husbands) and infanticide, were finally stopped only in the early nineteenth century and only through missionary agitation to the British authorities."
RJ Rummel provides some statistics as to how widespread this practice was in India...
"In India, for example, because of Hindu beliefs and the rigid caste system, young girls were murdered as a matter of course. When demographic statistics were first collected in the nineteenth century, it was discovered that in "some villages, no girl babies were found at all; in a total of thirty others, there were 343 boys to 54 girls. ... [I]n Bombay, the number of girls alive in 1834 was 603."
Kennedy-Newcombe go on to give account of two Norwegian women missionaries to China in the late 19th century, Sofie Rueter and Anna Jakobsen who wrote the following...
"It is an exception that a couple would have more than one or two girls. If there would be more born, they would be disposed of immediately. It was done in different ways. She could simpy be put out as food for wild dogs and wolves. The father would sometimes take her to a "baby tower" where she would soon die of exposure and starvation and be discovered by birds of prey. Others again would bury the little ones under the dirt floor in the room where they were born. If there is a river flowing by, the children would be thrown in."
Kennedy and Newcombe also mention..."
"A second century "Letter to Diognetus"... in which the writer states that Christians "marry..they begat children; but do not destroy their offspring. "the implication in this statement is that child killing was common at the time, except among Christians"
Kennedy-Newcombe go on to explain.."Jesus gathered the little children unto Himself saying "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them" (Matthew 19:14). His words gave new importance that bestowed dignified treatment upon them. Ater Jesus said that God was our Father, not only did this radically alter the attitudes of fathers toward children, but fatherhood in this life assumed a completely new form as well....Foundling homes, orphanages and nursery homes were started to to house the children. These new practices, based on a higher view of human life that persists to this day... And It all goes back to Jesus Christ. If he had never been born, we would never have seen this change in the value of human life."
And what about the status of adult women in ancient times? Julia Duin of The Washington Times wrote an article in which Illinois College professor of sociology (retired) Alvin J. Schmidt related the following.
"In what countries have women lacked freedom?" he says. "Where Christianity is not present, especially in the Middle East. Were it not for Christianity, Gloria Steinem would still be walking about in a veil." He continued, "Christ was never quoted as saying anything demeaning or derogatory to women. Women in Greek days could hardly leave their homes. When her husband had guests over, she was not even allowed to sit in the same room. Their status was extremely low among the Romans, where the father of the family had the power of life and death, even over his wife. "In [the Gospel of] John, Chapter Four, Jesus was asked what he was doing talking to a woman in public, as you only talked with prostitutes in public. When he taught Mary and Martha in Luke 10, that was a behavior you did not do with women. "Christianity also nullified polygamy, as Jesus made it clear a man has one wife. If a Greek man was walking about outside with a woman, that was his mistress, not his wife. Christianity also made it clear widows were to be taken care of."
John McArthur of Grace to You writes, "Pagan religion tended to fuel and encourage the devaluation of women even more. Of course, Greek and Roman mythology had its goddesses (such as Diana and Aphrodite). But don't imagine for a moment that goddess-worship in any way raised the status of women in society. The opposite was true. Most temples devoted to goddesses were served by sacred prostitutes--priestesses who sold themselves for money, supposing they were performing a religious sacrament. Both the mythology and the practice of pagan religion have usually been overtly demeaning to women".
Another radical departure from the thinking of the time was that the Bible stated that women were to be taught. 1 Timothy 2nd chapter makes this clear. Professor John Carlisle Kilgo of Duke University wrote that "The earliest Christian communities met in people's houses; they didn't have churches yet for quite some time, and throughout the New Testament, particularly Paul's letters in the Book of Acts, we find out that women owned the houses in which the early Christians met. This I think is significant because I don't think the women who owned the houses were simply providing coffee and cookies, in effect, for the Christian community. I think that this probably gave them some avenue to power... in the church."
Thank you for reading my blog entry here on Tracy's wonderful site. One last thing re: women and Christianity before I go. Were you aware that "A wealthy Christian woman, Fabiola, a disciple of St Jerome, is credited with having built the first hospital in the Western world, in Rome, circa AD 400"? I think that will make a neat segue into my next entry on my site. The impact of Christianity on the development of hospitals as we know them.
The hare, the tortoise and me.
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