I’ve never been a radical feminist. I don’t believe in reading “against the grain” of the text because it is apparently oppressive to women. I don’t get artistic works that portray a crucified woman. I don’t believe that marriage is a form of legalized rape. You get the point.
However, I think it important to note the relationship between the language of violence and sex. For example, if a young man sees his girlfriend walk by and tells his buddy, “Oh, I can’t wait to hit that!” the language of striking someone is used as a euphemism for sex. What is more, it is used only by men, not by women.
In the ancient world, femininity was defined largely by way of being sexually penetrated. To be masculine was to sexually penetrate another persons regardless of their gender. To be feminine was to allow oneself to be penetrated. Julius Caesar’s legions in Asia Minor called him the “Queen of Bithynia” apparently because he was the feminine partner in a relationship with the King of Bithynia.
Notwithstanding the type of abuse Jesus suffered during his cruel beating by a cohort of Roman soldiers (and sexual abuse cannot be ruled out) the very fact that Jesus is “pierced” does have sexual connotations. Humiliation is created by feminizing a person by piercing them in some form. It adds to their shame and victimization. It highlights the power of the piercer. Jesus Christ who was pierced for our transgressions is feminized by the act of crucifixion and it becomes the means of the redemptive power of God which frees us from the penalty of sin and powers of the cosmos. God’s victory is seen in the “feminine” Christ.Update: Folks for those who think I’m off my rocker on this one, can I just point out that (1) the Hebrew word for “female” is Neqebah and the root means “pierced” with obvious sexual connotations; and (2) in Graeco-Roman culture penetration defined the sexual act and being penetrated meant being the effeminate sexual partner. So “piercing” had sexual connotations. Doesn’t mean buying into a Freudian theory of sex and language, but language to do with violence can be sexualized, e.g., “Can’t wait to hit that”. That is my point.
Also I should have given a HT to my Ph.D student Daniel Christiansen of Multanomah University who is working on the language of gender and the Corinthian correspondence.