As I have been slowly digesting and contemplating God’s Word to Women, I’ve had many “aha!” moments. I am struck that God’s Plan included women. Not just as wives, mothers or incidental extras, but as lead roles. I mourn the dearth of sermons expounding His plan for using women in ages past and present.
(Is it different than His plan for men, you may ask? Only different in the same way preachers have expounded on the differences, yet altered 180 degrees looking at things emphasized on women instead of men. Should we throw out the man parts? Of course not! But as my husband says, “To correct imbalance, you’ve got to put more weight on the opposite side.” Forgive me if I continue to go heavy on women for a while?)
One of the “ahas” I’ve experienced is matrilineage; lineal descent traced through the female line. Much of this post will, again, be postulation. But, I hope you’ll recognize that much of what I’m assuming is little more than what is concluded about Patriarchy: a man emphasized plan of God. As Katharine Bushnell puts it, both are “sweeping conclusions from small premises.”
Patrilineage alone may not be God’s intent.
In the beginning God intended man to leave his family and cleave to his wife.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
Christ and Paul repeat this marriage direction in the New Testament. (Mathew 19:5, Mark 10:7, Ephesians 5:31) Here we find the only gender requirement established at creation by the word of God. Man leaves his tribe and unifies with his wife. Since He doesn’t say woman is to leave her family, we can assume the man joins her kin. What are the reasons for this?
Picture of Christ
For sure, there is a mysterious picture hiding. Christ too leaves His Father in heaven to become one flesh with His wife, the church. The many metaphors get jumbled up, but you can glimpse the truth.
It may be an added protection for the weaker gender. By taking away the necessity of leaving her parents, it gives the woman another layer of family protection if her husband turns out to be a scoundrel. We know God was concerned for the weaker sex. He gives the wife rights in marriage, whereas the husband is given specific duties.
It may be because it is through the woman’s children the promised one comes. (Genesis 3:15) It is the mother’s line that would then be important. The mother’s side of the family would pass on the family lineage traced back to the Mother of the Promise, Eve herself.
It is natural.
It is impossible for a woman not to know that a child is hers. You birth it, its part of you. Even Eve herself said, “I [not we] have gotten a man;” showing the unique author-ity of woman to child. Every woman knows who her children are; although the father can only be proven today through DNA – a thing impossible 25 odd years ago. Hence, paternity could always be argued. For a man to know his children are his, he must either 1) ask the mother if he was the father, 2) trust in her fidelity, or 3) imprison her in some fashion (physical or societal) to guarantee no access to another sire. Matrilineage is inherently legitimate.
(How dependent man is on woman for this crucial knowledge! Can you see how man, who God foretold would desire to dominate women, would not be satisfied with this dependency? )
Patrilineage festers the subjection of women.
Because maternity is always unmistakeable, the rights of parentage naturally fall to the mother. But when man requires parentage for himself, he can either trust his wife or own her. This “ownership” is the root cause of a culture’s denigration of women. Some examples would be foot binding, a physically restricting torture; seclusion, as seen in modern Islamic cultures and in ancient Greece; female circumcision, a method of removing a woman’s desire for sex; or societal expectations of chastity as seen in extreme in Victorian times, necessitating constant chaperones and supervision. These cruel methods were a way to guarantee a wife’s virtue and to remove the husband’s dependence on woman’s superior knowledge of paternity.
But if legitimacy was through the mother’s line, the man has no need to protect or insure his family name. The protection of the family name, hence the virtue of the wife, falls to her family. It is now in her kin’s interest to ensure the safety and health of her and her children (which are guaranteed part of the family through the mother), the future of their tribe.
[M]an has set it aside [the custom of female kinship],and invented many cruel customs for accomplishing the same result – the virtue of women. And this has been done not because he values morality in itself (he holds a lower standard of purity for himself), but to keep in continuance knowledge with which his Creator never endowed him apart from woman – a record of male kinship. (Katharine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women, para 482.)
Patrilineage festers the abuse of children.
A bastard is one with out a “legitimate” father. History is filled with these poor souls denied a name, denied respect and denied shelter in his kin’s home. In a matrilineage system, there would be no such thing. All children are legitimately their mother’s kin.
Matrilineage is foreign to us today. For centuries upon centuries, young girls have been primed for marriage; the necessity of leaving her home and going to her new husband. Most western cultures that have descended from Roman traditions take the man’s name in marriage. In Christian circles, to keep your maiden name is considered brazen. Patrilineage is our culture. So does this idea of female kinship seems weird and somehow wrong to you?
And here’s a theory for you: If today’s Christians practiced matrilineage instead of patrilineage, would DNA testing be the “soapbox platform” of conservatives instead of contraceptives? I can hear them now. “DNA testing takes away the mother’s right to her child! Who cares who the father is. Children belong to their mothers!” Just a funny thought.
I will continue to detail matrilineage in history and in the Bible.