Genesis and Gender: Biblical Myths of Sexuality and Their Cultural Impact

By William E. Phipps | Go to book overview

Introduction: The Purpose of Myths

This book is about the most influential myths ever told and their significance for resolving some long-standing gender problems. The creation stories of Genesis are of central importance in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Being the source of revelatory life-styles and authoritative doctrines, the myths have continually been transmitted by the religious faithful. They have also had an impact on those whose orientation is secular. However, crucial points pertaining to gender have generally been missed because faulty traditional interpretations have been accepted uncritically.

Before a discussion of biblical texts and interpretations can properly get underway in the following chapters, a semantic confusion must be addressed. The term myth has provoked much controversy because it has at least two basic meanings in the original Greek and in other European languages. Both meanings share the awareness that myths are fictions. The significant difference in this: in popular talk myths are false fictions, but in scholarly talk myths are true fictions.

In common parlance a myth refers to a fabrication which ignorant people accept as true. For example, one "myth" about pregnancy is that it can be prevented by having intercourse while standing. Politicians sometimes prefer the soft word "myth" to the libelous word "lie" in referring to their opponents' positions. Old Myths and New Realities, the title of Senator Fulbright's book about government policies, suggests

-xi-

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Genesis and Gender: Biblical Myths of Sexuality and Their Cultural Impact
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction: the Purpose of Myths xi
  • Chapter 1 Androgyny in Myths 1
  • Chapter 2 A Bone of Contention 19
  • Chapter 3 Eve and Pandora 37
  • Chapter 4 The Fall and Woman 51
  • Chapter 5 Jesus and Creation 67
  • Chapter 6 Paradise Continued 87
  • Notes 103
  • Selected Bibliography 121
  • Index 123
  • About the Author 127
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