God's Phallus: And Other Problems for Men and Monotheism
In recent decades, feminist scholars have amply demonstrated the problems that the male sex of the Jewish and Christian God poses for women. But how ... Show synopsis In recent decades, feminist scholars have amply demonstrated the problems that the male sex of the Jewish and Christian God poses for women. But how has God's sex affected men? Through close readings of the Hebrew Bible, as well as insights from feminist and gender criticism, anthropology, and psychoanalysis, Howard Eilberg-Schwartz explores the dilemmas created by the maleness of God for the men of ancient Judaism and for Jewish men today. Eilberg-Schwartz marshals surprising evidence to show that the men of ancient Judaism were uneasy about the God they most often imagined as male. Rereading stories of the Hebrew Bible - including those of Moses, Noah and his sons, and Sodom and Gomorrah - Eilberg-Schwartz finds evidence of a "divine cover-up, " in which the men who were permitted to see God saw only parts of his body, or quickly averted their gaze. Furthermore, the Jewish ban on divine images of God can be seen as a way to hide God's male sex. Without this concealment, Eilberg-Schwartz believes, the emphasis of Jewish culture on heterosexuality, procreation, and monotheism itself would have been endangered. How did the male sex of God affect Israelite men? In order to find a place in the marriage analogy commonly used to describe the relationship between God and Israel, men had to imagine themselves as wives to God. To avoid the homoerotic implications of these images, they were feminized. Eilberg-Schwartz outlines biblical and rabbinic stories in which this feminization occurs, through the threat of castration, death, or more subtle forms of gender reversal. In the last chapter, Eilberg-Schwartz offers a way to reincorporate embodied, fatherly images of God into contemporary Judaism. By embracing loving masculine images of God along with powerful feminine images, both men and women can relate more intimately to the divine.