In a post earlier this week, I referred to Phyllis Trible and her book, “God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality.” I forget how insightful she is with the biblical text, and I had forgotten what a beautiful writer she is in this work. In my opinion, anyone interested in the Jewish-Christian Scriptures must read her writings. If we listen to Trible execute new readings of old texts, she will alter our worldviews–radically.
Here is a passage I read last night on her interpretation of the Hebrew word for compassion. She is speaking of the two-fold function of metaphor and uses this Hebrew word rehem–“womb” and then its plural rahamim which means “compassion.” Simply put, in the singular rehem means womb; in the plural rahamim, we translate as compassion. Stay with me now:
“Accordingly, our metaphor lies in the semantic movement from a physical organ of the female body to a psychic mode of being. It journeys from the concrete to the abstract. “Womb” is the vehicle; “compassion” is the tenor. To the responsive imagination, this metaphor suggests the meaning of love as selfless participation in life. The womb protects and nourishes but does not possess and control. It yields its treasure in order that wellness and whole-being my happen. Truly, it is the way of compassion.” (33)
“to the responsive imagination”
The Madonna of Zbraslav (Prague 1310-1320)
St. Agnes Convent Museum Bohemian and Religious Art