THE criticisms on "The Woman's Bible" are as varied as they are unreasonable. Both friend and foe object to the title. When John Stuart Mill wrote his "Subjection of Woman" there was a great outcry against that title. He said that proved it to be a good one. The critics said: "It will suggest to women that they are in subjection and make them rebellious." "That," said he, "is just the effect I wish to produce." Rider Haggard's "She" was denounced so universally that every one read it to see who "She" was. Thus the title in both cases called attention to the book.
The critics say that our title should have been "Commentaries on the Bible." That would have been misleading, as the book simply contains short comments on the passages referring to woman. Some say that it should have been "The Women of the Bible;" but several books with that title have already been published. The Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage says: "You might as well have a 'Shoemakers' Bible'; the Scriptures apply to women as we'll as to men." As the Bible treats women as of a different class, inferior to man or in subjection to him, which is not the case with shoemakers, Mr. Talmage's criticism has no significance.
"There's nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness and humility."
Another clergyman says: "It is the work of women, and the devil." This is a grave mistake. His Satanic Majesty was not invited to join the Revising Committee, which consists of women alone. Moreover, he has been so busy of late years attending Synods, General Assemblies and Conferences, to prevent the recognition of
women delegates, that he has had no time to study the languages and "higher criticism."
Other critics say that our comments do not display a profound knowledge of Biblical history or of the Greek and Hebrew languages. As the position of woman in all religions is the same, it does not need a knowledge of either Greek, Hebrew or the works of scholars to show that the Bible degrades the Mothers of the Race. Furthermore, "The Woman's Bible" is intended for readers who do not care for, and would not be convinced by, a learned, technical work of so-called "higher criticism."
The Old Testament makes woman a mere after-thought in creation; the author of evil; cursed in her maternity; a subject in marriage; and all female life, animal and human, unclean. The Church in all ages has taught these doctrines and acted on them, claiming divine authority therefor. "As Christ is the head of the Church, so is man the head of woman." This idea of woman's subordination is reiterated times without number, from Genesis to Revelations; and this is the basis of all church action.
Parts I. and II. of "The Woman's Bible" state these dogmas in plain English, as agreeing fully with Bible teaching and church action. And yet women meet in convention and denounce "The Woman's Bible," while clinging to the Church and their Scriptures. The only difference between us is, we say that these degrading ideas of woman emanated from the brain of man, while the Church says that they came from God.
Now, to my mind, the Revising Committee of "The Woman's Bible," in denying divine inspiration for such demoralizing ideas, shows a more worshipful reverence for the great Spirit of All Good than does the Church. We have made a fetich of the Bible long enough. The time has come to read it as we do all other books, accepting the good and rejecting the evil it teaches.
"There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds."
Hon. Andrew D. White, formerly President of Cornell University,
shows us in his great work, "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology," that the Bible, with its fables, allegories and endless contradictions, has been the great block in the way of civilization. All through the centuries scholars and scientists have been imprisoned, tortured and burned alive for some discovery which seemed to conflict with a petty text of Scripture. Surely the immutable laws of the universe can teach more impressive and exalted lessons than the holy books of all the religions on earth.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON.