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Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Romans 12:1 - I beseech you therefore, sisters, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Read this verse out loud, as it's written. Does it shock you? What kind of images come to mind?

During a lecture in my Women class today, my professor, wonderful Dr. Sakenfeld, read this passage: "I beseech you therefore..." half of the people in class were mouthing the words as she read this familiar passage. As she paused, our lips silently filled in the word that we expected, "brethren." Then she continued, "...sisters..."

I was struck dumb. As she spoke the part about presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, my mind immediately leapt to sexual images. When I hear the text with the word "sister," my mind moves to images of women "giving themselves" to men for the sexual gratification of the man. Hearing the same text with the word "brethren," I think of a life of piety, lived for God, not for myself.

What does this say about me? What does this say about our culture? Why is it that I immediately associate sexuality and sacrifice in a female context? Did the resetting of this familiar text take anyone else by surprise?

After thinking about the way language affects our thoughts and actions for many years, the reality that just changing language is not enough was brought home to me more profoundly in the reading of that one text than in all the study I've done since college...
posted by Kate Elliott at 3:43 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 4/10/2007 06:05:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I struggle with this one.

    I hate it when women are reduced to their bodies. Too many of the stories we have of women in the Bible are just about what they can do with their bodies - seduce men or bear children. For men the body is only referred to in terms of temptation and sin. Which then begs the question, if women are just bodies...

    I didn't make that jump in my mind when I first read the passage. I did smirk at the gender inclusive language - something I support, but am still not used to. But when I separate women as sacrifices vs. men as sacrifices, the sexual thing does pop into mind.

    Part of me wants to move as far away as possible from viewing women as just sexual objects, but I also want to be able to accept a more holistic sexuality for all. Basically I want the best of both worlds - for women to be more than sex objects and for men and women to have a healthy appreciation of the body.

  • At 4/11/2007 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Janice

    It struck me slightly differently when I inserted sisters....I always think of the verse in terms of a completely whole body, holy, pure, set apart, what it means to be acceptable to God, etc. But the way it struck me differently is when I read it just now it made me so sad to think of how many women, and young girls in particular, who don't value themselves, not just their bodies, but their 'service', what they do with their lives and their bodies. And then of course as far as their bodies in relation to the calousness with which sex is regarded in much of today's culture. It really really made me sad.

    I've thought more and more lately about the next generations, about our youth.....I really feel like they've gotten a raw deal and are faced with so much today and that they're a 'lost' generation - not lost as in 'not saved' although certainly there seems to be a lack of faith, but lost in terms of un-noticed. Pushed around, bad mouthed, overlooked, relegated to the fringes . . . in the church included. Young girls are certainly a part of that so your post really brought these feelings and ideas and the saddness to the surface for me. Since I'm on the topic, I'll mention that I started a blog for parents, and youth workers, and anyone really who is interested in youth or 'future generations'. If anyone wants to visit or contribute - the blog is located at http://gracebased.blogspot.com

    Sorry for going slightly off topic, but its intertwined for me.


  • At 4/11/2007 10:13:00 PM, Blogger Kate

    This sort of thing was as much free association as anything else. The point was, how does this reading change the way you think about the text.

    Janice, would this verse have made you think about young girls not valuing themselves in the more traditional/literal translation?

  • At 4/12/2007 08:59:00 AM, Blogger Janice

    Hi Kate,

    "Janice, would this verse have made you think about young girls not valuing themselves in the more traditional/literal translation?"

    Not in an immediate sense - as I said, thats where it struck me differently - in that it really made me think immediately (as you said, free association) of younger girls in particular. The term sister perhaps - though I don't have a sister - it probably struck me in a familial way moreso than if it said 'ladies' or 'women'...and I guess family, for me, brings out some of my 'mothering' and a protective nature. And then there's the whole issue of my increased awareness of our youth these days. Its just something thats been really really heavy on my heart.


  • At 4/12/2007 10:06:00 AM, Blogger Lori

    Kate, thanks so much for passing along a "new version" of this verse. While I thank God that I've been spared much of the scarring typical to my gender, I have also subconsciously felt "left out" in many contexts. There are so many silent, insidious ways in which women are sidelined, many of which may be entirely unintentional, but effective nonetheless. Reading Scripture with this new angle is relatively new to me, and a joyous experience every time. "It's talking to me!"

  • At 4/12/2007 11:55:00 AM, Blogger Amy

    I actually just purchased the TNIV bible for this very reason. It reads, "Therefore, I urge you you, brothers and sisters..."

    I did kind of have an initial picture in my mind of the female body, but not necessarily as sacrificing. I think it's more the shock of hearing the feminine, which in our culture does have some underlying physical connotations.

    More so than anything, I felt relief and peace. It's finally talking to me, too!


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