Biblical Cats Again

The Methuselah of Biblioblogging, Jim Davila, draws attention to an article in Archaeology (19 June 2017) on the domestic cat’s origins in “Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt”.

Noting that “Israel” is included on the list, Jim mentions that the Hebrew Bible and New Testament “never once mention domestic cats”.

This is quite possibly correct. However, in an earlier post I suggested that there might be one mention of a (wild, but possibly able-to-be-domesticated) cat hidden in the pages of the Hebrew Bible. It all depends, though, on how one translates “lilith” in Isaiah 34:14 along with three other (wild) animals.

In later tradition, Lilith becomes a nocturnal demon, greatly feared at least since medieval times. But Lilith has since been reclaimed by feminists, Neopagans, and Magick practitioners, and also features in the TV series Supernatural.

Update (22 June 2017): Jim Davila responds. For much the same reasons he sets out, I only count my suggestion as a possibility at the moment, too. I haven’t seen any peer-review-published identifications of the lilith with a cat (but there may well be some), and I would need to find some other grounds to link the lilith to the domestic house cat (Felis catus) before I’d publish the idea. And the lilith is (as I noted) clearly wild rather than domesticated in Isaiah 34 – although, many cats (Felis catus) are indeed wild or feral. Maybe a future project. Cat-loving Bible-readers of the world must know the truth.

David Clines: There is not a single instance in which the Hebrew Bible views God as female

David Clines: male, like Yahweh

I have just seen the future. On 18 July 2017, David Clines will deliver a paper at the SOTS Summer Meeting which provides a succinct but comprehensive take-down of the view that God is sometimes, in the Hebrew Bible, described as female.

The view that Yahweh sometimes gets described with female language is widespread in a type of second wave feminist–influenced biblical scholarship. Phyllis Trible is perhaps the most influential scholar who has expounded such a view. Clines doesn’t explicitly say it in these terms, but such scholarship also appears to be driven by a need to redeem the biblical text for the confessional needs of Christian and Jewish women. While understandable, the critical approach, by contrast, faces up to a more recalcitrant text which perpetuates the patriarchal assumptions of its authors.

To this end, Clines reviews “some 23 passages and terms that have been thought to attest female language about the deity under the topic headings of childbirth, midwifery, childcare, female household activities, other female activities… and two Hebrew terms (for Shaddai and mercy)”. For those familiar with the claims made by those who would redeem the text, the passages in the Hebrew Bible will come as no surprise (they aren’t very extensive to begin with). With emphasis on philological analysis, Clines seems intent not only on showing that the Bible does not present God as a woman, but denying any possibility of feminine imagery being applied to God. Edit: Although, checking back on this just before Clines’ delivery of the paper at SOTS, I see that, in his latest draft, he allows for the possibility of two instances of feminine imagery being applied to God (without any suggestion that they thereby present God as a woman): Isaiah 42.14 and Isaiah 66.13.

His conclusion is worth quoting:

For my part, I regret the damage done to the feminist cause by the repeated claim that the Bible is less masculine and less sexist than it actually is.
– David Clines, “Alleged Female Language about the Deity in the Hebrew Bible“, paper to be delivered at SOTS Summer Meeting 2017, 18 July

I look forward to future scholarship reclaiming the Bible as homophobic, ethically dubious, and politically suppressive, too.

See also: David Clines on whether women should speak in church, in the Christian Brethren Research Fellowship journal: <a href=”https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/cbrfj/10_33.pdf

New Nephilim Paranormal Romantic Fiction from Quantum Leap writer

Age of Eve - DM PrattNewly released this month from BroadLit Publishing is paranormal romantic novel Return of the Nephilim by D.M. Pratt, the first in the Age of Eve series.

D.M. Pratt is a five-time Emmy nominee, a Golden Globe nominee and was Co-Executive Producer and Head Writer for the television series Quantum Leap.

In Return of the Nephilim, we meet Eve Dowling, successful New Orleans magazine writer, whose life “is turned upside down by a fateful encounter with a stunningly handsome mystery man who ignites her most sensual fantasies”. Her subsequent attempt to track down her mysterious lover, who had sexually ravaged her like no other, leads her to an abandoned sanitarium in the heart of the swamplands surrounding New Orleans. “It is there she first confronts two creatures, first described in ancient Hebrew and Christian texts as the Nephilim or “fallen sons of God,” who vye to posess her body and soul and keep her from true love with her mystery man.”

According to Ms. Pratt, “Female empowerment has been my battle cry since I started writing as a teen, and has continued throughout my professional writing career. I wrote several books and screenplays in the early ’90s and was told that a female protagonist who didn’t get saved by a man would never happen in reality, much less in a movie. I actually remember being asked when a guy was going to save her. Now much has changed thanks to the huge success of female driven, strong, heroine-based stories in literature and films today. I’m thrilled by these changes because I believe women are the salvation of the planet” (“Age of Eve: Return of the Nephilim Is a New Romance Novel from BroadLit with a Paranormal Twist, BWWBooksWorld, 26 February 2013).

Cacharel - Eden
Cacharel’s Eden perfume advertisement – one of the many images examined by biblical scholar Katie B. Edwards in Admen and Eve

The novel’s cover imagery and claim for female empowerment are subjects which have been addressed in a recent work of biblical scholarship, Admen and Eve, by Katie B. Edwards (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2012). Edwards contends that in contemporary Western society, and in advertising in particular, “Eve now functions as contemporary popular culture’s pin-up girl for postfeminist female consumer power”.

The archetypal image of the sexual temptress who proffers fruit to a bewildered-looking male and the pseudo-sinister sexual appeal of the woman/snake conflation are used in contemporary culture as evidence of women’s potent sexual allure. The popular ideology of postfeminist advertising suggests that the ability to attract the opposite sex allows women to obtain sexual power and, the advertisers would have us believe, financial independence through their devastating effect on men.

The first two chapters of D.M. Pratt’s Return of the Nephilim are available to read online, here. It made me a little moist.