Sirach’s Fear of Daughters, présentation de Sébastien Doane à la SBL

Le groupe Children in the Biblical World de la Society of Biblical Literature a invité Sébastien Doane à faire une présentation sur la peur pour un homme d'avoir une fille selon le Siracide.

Sirach’s Fear of Daughters

This paper will rely on feminism (Scholz 2010; Fuchs 2016) as well as the study of children in the Bible (Parker 2013; Betsworth 2015) to explore the fear of daughters in the gender constructions in the narrative world of Sirach, as well as its implications in the reader’s world. The study of the fear at the root of misogyny is crucial since it can lead to acts of hatred and violence. In a biblical corpus, Sirach is a book in which the author explicitly expresses his fear of fathering a female child. The Book of Sirach conveys fear of a bad wife (26:5-12) and of women in general (9:1-9), but the most explicit gynophobic statement is about the responsibility of fathering a daughter (42:9-14). The potential shame that a daughter can bring to her father causes anxiety to Sirach. While she is under her father’s roof, she may not marry, be disliked, lose her virginity and become pregnant. Once married, she can go astray, be barren and make her father a public laughingstock. Feminist and childist reading of this text will lead to reconsider the ethical implications of this patriarchal point of view that does not give voice to women or children. Sirach is part of a biblical wisdom literature that aims the education of young men. In chapter 42, the explicit auctorial audience is male. The practical recommendations for the future fathers are to confine their daughters to the privacy of the house. This text recommends that young daughter’s should not be raised by women (42:14). Sirach implicitly acknowledges that, in the education of daughters, women can question patriarchal structure. Fear motivates fathers to educate their daughters so that they adopt an adrocentric point of view. There is little research on Sirach because it is not part of the Hebrew and Protestant canons. However, this book offers insights on the second Temple culture gender roles. Sirach is known for its misogyny. Some research has been published to this effect with a feminist approach (Milne 2002; Balla 2011; Pudełko 2016; Bolle 2017). However, none has studied Sirach’s fear of daughters with feminist and childist approaches. What are the specific reasons for Ben Sirach’s fear of daughters? How are these fear described? A second part of paper will reflect on the hermeneutical implications of reading this book in our own culture. There is a deep irony in the contrast between Sirach’s fear of daughters, and the sexual violence that is usually suffered by girls in past and present societies. In a cultural context of violence against women and children, daughters are the ones who fear potential violence from fathers, husbands or other men. How can we interpret this text of terror (Tribble 1984) presented as canonical and sacred in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions? What are the effects of reading this gynophobic text for readers living in a society that aims for the equality of women and men and rights of children?

Fille bible
San Diego, SBL