I read somewhere that when Cressida says that line in Shakespeare’s play, she reveals herself as a whore. That’s what a prostitute seeking to entice trade would say to a passing gentleman.
Shannon Bream, one of Fox’s squeaky-clean Blonde anchors, has a book out, Women of the Bible. I haven’t read it, but, (idky, maybe in preparation for my death) lately I’ve been thinking so much about Bible stories. Right now especially about the women.
And here’s what I wanna know: what is it with the “harlot” theme?
in no particular order, the following stories come to mind, where the heroine either is or plays the part of a prostitute:
JAEL: during the war with the Canaanites , she entices the enemy commander Sisera into her tent (“Turn aside, my lord!”) plies him with food ’n’ drink, covers him up for a nap—and drives an effing TENT STAKE through his temples! Woooooo! . ( See Artemisia Gentilischi’s great painting of the last few seconds of Sisera’s life.)
TAMARA: Judah’s daughter in law, widowed and balked of her duty to raise up progeny to Judah’s house, she “plays the harlot” , gets Judah himself into her bed, and tricks him into paying with his rings, so she later has proof that he was the one by whom she conceived.
RAHAB: the Canaanite woman who hides the Israelite spies Joshua and Caleb and helps them escape . She is widely believed to have been running a bawdy house, since how else could a woman be the head of household, as she evidently is?
RUTH: (okay, okay, have you read it lately? ) She, at Naomi’s direction, sneaks up to Boaz as he sleeps on the threshing floor, “uncovers his feet”, makes a claim upon him , and “lies at his feet” till dawn, when he takes great pains to make sure nobody will know, or at least nobody will talk, about the fact that she spent the night with him. Now she is undeniably a heroine: gets her own Book, and of course she and Boaz beget Obed, who begets Jesse, of whose lineage come both David and Jesus .
ABIGAIL: very comely by all accounts, she cosys up to David as he comes marauding through her demesne, and is rewarded when her husband abruptly and conveniently dies and David takes her as one of his many wives.
BATHSHEBA: well, you know that story. (If you don’t, listen to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.) But, after a tragic brush with SIDS, this adulteress begets Solomon, Israel’s most splendid king.
Are there others you would name, (as they say in church)?
On to the New Testament! Let’s welcome…Mary Magdalene!
Okay the Bible does NOT say, nor imply, that she was a prostitute. Jesus cast seven demons out of her and after that she followed Him everywhere. And: she is the first person to see Him after the resurrection! (take that, Saint Peter!)
Why DOES everybody think of her as a prostitute, or Jesus’ concubine/baby mama? The non -canonical Gospels have a lot to answer for in this regard. But: Is it maybe because of the many OT fallen-women-with-hearts o’ gold that I discussed above? In the popularly received wisdom, MM fits, fills out, and and totally reifies the stereotypical trope. She’s the Queen of ‘em all.
Even before The Magdalene, there’s the Virgin herself. Joseph, as would anyone else who knew the facts, thought she had been fornicating, was going to “put her away privily” which was gentlemanly of him since he probably coulda had her stoned. She was forced however undeservedly into the rôle of a fallen woman.
Reader, have you ever thought of the women of the Bible in this light? Are you willing to do so?
(If not, will you forgive me? )