Here are three quotations from the late Dean of Canterbury, the Very Rev. Payne-Smith, which we would do well to ponder:
- “A bad translation of this book” (he means the Bible; and we hold that it has been badly translated regarding women), exercises a depressing influence upon a nation’s civilization: a good translation is one of the great levers in a nations rise.”
- “Give men what proof you will, but seldom do they find more than what it suits them to find. If what is said agrees with their preconceived notions, well; if not, they reject it.”
- “Men never do understand anything unless already in their minds they have some kindred ideas, something that leads up to the new thought which they are required to master.”
— K.C. Bushnell, 1923
In all these remarks, Payne-Smith has special reference to the work of translating and interpreting the Word of God. Now, add to these many of the others that I have quoted from early history and the contempt in which women have been held by men. There really is no marvel that, even with the best motives of honor and honesty that men have, they have been unable to see the truth of God regarding women, as revealed in the Word. The truth about us has always been skewed by their own opinions of what THEY think about us and their opinions of how we should act. It has never had anything to do with the Word of God. Otherwise, they would not hold to what they surmise are the standards by which we are to live and, in many instances, are forced to live by.
According to Bushnell, Smith’s Bible Dictionary, under the topic, Law of Moses, subhead, Husband and Wife, makes this sweeping assertion as regards women:
“The power of a husband [was] so great that a wife could never be sui juris [a law unto herself], or enter independently into any engagement even before God.”
The whole proof of this astounding assertion, as given by the writer of these words, is Numbers 30:6-15. This is not the only instance, by any means, in theology of “tracing the ever-widening spiral ergo from the narrow aperture of a single text.”
If we were to open our Bibles to this passage, the first instance cited is that of a daughter in her father’s house vowing a vow. The two kinds of vows mentioned here seem to include vows of abstinence and vows of giving. The nature of some of these vows is described in Gen. 28:20, a vow to give; and 1 Sam. 14:24, Psa. 132:3-5, vows to abstain. Here we have the provisions:
If a woman voweth a vow. . . being in her father’s house in her youth; and her father heareth her vow . . . and holdeth his peace at her: then all her vows . . . shall stand. But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; none of her vows . . . shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.”
Now, let’s point out something important here. First of all, the express reading of this statute permits a daughter to make a vow on her own initiative. Second, the father could only disallow that vow by action taken immediately upon the information reaching him. Third, there is no provision requiring her to carry the information that she has made the vow to her father. Moses’ statute relating to this matter would not be broken then, should a girl make a vow entirely independently of her father, without his knowledge or consent.
It is very likely that the use of the words “in her youth,” means that, the child, whether male or female, is assumed to be incapable under any circumstances, of making a vow. This would mean that the class of people this refers to would consist of young, unmarried women.
Now, let’s suppose, without arguing, that it would be right for a girl to conceal her vow. What if the girl’s mother was very ill and the daughter made a vow like this:
“Oh, Lord, please heal my mother. if you heal my mother, I promise to go to the Tabernacle and sacrifice this choice lamb that I have.”
The mother gets well and the daughter, not sure her father would allow her to do so, goes and fulfills her vow by quietly offering the choice lamb. She fulfilled her vow without the knowledge of her father. Upon her father hearing of the deed accidentally, he confronts the daughter. Of course, the Priest, who is covetous, has offered the lamb, and taken his share, without caring to know whether the father consents or not. The angry father then makes his way to the head of his tribe and lays the case for the recovery of a lamb before him. Now, judge this Mosaic statute from precisely the same standpoint that we would judge a law of this country today. What would the lawyer say to the father?
“I am very sorry for you, sir. You have lost a fine lamb. Your daughter has done wrong, and the priest has taken advantage of the situation. But, I am bound to say, the law will not help you out, and I cannot advise you to bring the case into court. I think that statute sadly needs amending. You see, it makes no provision REQUIRING consultation with you before a vow is made by your daughter; and again, it does not oblige her to let you know when she makes a vow. You have to find out in the best manner you can; and if you do not find out in time, you have to take the consequences, and there is no redress, and will be none until we get this law amended.”
However, the Mosaic statute never was amended. So when Dr. William Smith, in his Bible Dictionary, asserts that a woman “could never be sui juris, nor enter independently into any engagement even before God,” and quotes this law to prove it, he has quoted a Mosaic Law which proves nothing of the sort! This statute was never enacted with the object of strengthening a father’s rule over his daughter, but for something totally different. It was meant to protect the inexperienced and to protect property from covetous priests who might influence the inexperienced to make rash vows.
The conclusion, in this case, if the father disallows the vow, is this: “The Lord will forgive her.” Why? Because she made a rash vow? The Bible doesn’t tell us directly. Is she forgiven because she repented of not consulting her father beforehand? The Bible says nothing of such offenses here. If this were the case, it would have said so. This law was not designed to strengthen the fathers power and control over the daughter. “The Lord shall forgive her because her father disallowed her,” is what the text says.
“If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a person hath, and not according to that he hath not” (2 Cor. 8:12). This is the teaching of this Mosaic statute.