Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Woman's Worth

One bizarrity of Princeton life is that despite there being a world-class Biblical faculty in town, the best insights into the Bible have, at least in my experience, come from a humble Tuesday morning Bible study (which, to be fair to the Seminary, is attended by one of its professors emeritus.) As we read the last chapter of Leviticus today, a retired television executive points out that according to the worth appended to individuals seeking to buy out of temple service, Judas got ripped off.

As a male between twenty and sixty years old, Christ should have gone for fifty shekels. Judas, of course, received only only thirty. Scholarly titan Bruce Metzger suggests that Matthew's "pieces of silver" refer to silver shekels; hence Christ was bought for the price of a woman.

Disputing a contemporary art theorist's claim that the Christian religion "harmed the cause of women and especially women artists tremendously," James Panero point out that "the early Christian church held a great attraction for women, who were excluded from mystery religions like the Cult of Mithras but could have equal access to Christ" (226). Add to that the first resurrection appearances, Galatians, and - thanks to a retired executive - Christ's identification, through his betrayal, with women. Conveniently, there's a nice way to remember it too. Leviticus 27:3-4 parallels Matthew 27:3-4.

A woman's temple worth may once have been thirty shekels. Christianity upped that price to the worth of God incarnate, making even Zimbabwe's inflation rate look tame.