Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Assumption of Assumption

Luke 1:39-56
I love the Gospel of Luke's telling of the birth of Jesus. This tale is so beautifully feminist and subversive - but this is only because of it's use of tradition and patriarchy. Luke's Gospel gives very high value to the roles of men and then silences them and gives the prophetic words to the females in the story. First Zechariah is silenced (1:22), and Elizabeth proclaims (1:25) God(dess)'s favor.

Then Mary is called the "favored one" (1:28). In this week's selection of the text, instead of telling her betrothed about all that is to take place, she goes to Elizabeth and sings a song of praise. While this is the context for the text, the story continues to highlight the women in the story. John is born and Elizabeth decides not to name the child after Zechariah as the couple had intended (1:59-60) and once Zechariah agrees he is able to speak again (1:62-24).

In a nod to patriarchy Luke seeks to establish that Jesus is a first born son in a long line of first born son's. This is an obvious attempt to establish a priestly lineage back to King David and ultimately to Adam. And yet, the lineage does not line up with other biblical texts. For example, Jacob is not a first born (though he does get the birthright), 1 Chron says David is a descendant of Ham (not Shem as listed in 3:36) and according to Ruth 2:1 is not a part of this line, but rather a member of the wealthy family Elimelech. If you're really want to be nitpicky you can note that Cainan should be Kenan, and Araphaxad sohuld be Araphashad.

The fact that the genealogy is a bit off, makes it even more clear that Luke is going out of his way to prove that Jesus is the first born son of a long line of first born sons. And yet, all of this work is still dependant on Joseph being Jesus (bloodline) father, which is not the premise of the first two chapters of this story.

So why if Luke is working so hard to prove the patriarchal lineage of the story do all the speaking parts of the texts go to the female leads? This of course is the inspiration of this blog. For me it is not so inspiring to argue that queer people exist and grace lets us do what we want. But, examples of the queerness that exists in scripture (that we ignore or forget because we assume the text only affirms heterosexuality), stories of the queer saints and deeply held traditions that are much older than the contemporary assumption that only monogamous heterosexual relationships. And of course you can read more about this (shameless plug) in my book "Queerly Lutheran: Ministry Rooted in Tradition, Scripture and the Confessions."

But, it causes me to wonder about what the history of biblical scholarship will uncover as the next assumption that we are reading into scripture. What is the next scale we need to remove from our eyes so we can see the text more clearly?

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