The Bible, Impurity Laws and Menstruation Influence Medical Practices

Leslie Carol Botha: This is a very important article to follow Germaine Greer’s Opinion piece entitled: “Guilt Poisons Women”  that appeared in March.  The Bible’s interpretation of menstruation needs to be analyzed.  Let me show you why – there is a study on the PubMed.gov web site – the official site for the National Institute of Health that links preventive obstetrical care to Biblical times. Serious? Have gynecological practice and menstrual management stem from Biblical times as well?  Synthetic hormones, STD vaccines, anti-depressants – I think the answer, sadly is very clear.

What is the biblical attitude towards personal hygiene during vaginal bleeding?

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2003 Jan 10;106(1):99-101.
Ben-Noun LL.

Department of Family Medicine, Faculty for Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Family Physician Specialist, P.O. Box 572, 82104, Kiryat-Gat, Israel. lbennun@zahav.net.il

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To analyze biblical passages associated with personal hygiene during vaginal bleeding. According to the Bible, a woman who is menstruating or who has pathological vaginal bleeding is unclean. Anybody who touches such a woman’s bed or her personal things is also regarded as unclean and should therefore, wash carefully. Sexual relations are forbidden within 7 days from the beginning of menstruation and during pathological vaginal bleeding. Seven days after the cessation of vaginal bleeding, a woman is considered as clean, and therefore, sexual contacts are permitted. From a modern perspective sexual contacts during menses are associated with the development of chlamydial and gonococcal diseases, the risk of transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus infection, endometriosis and subsequent infertility. This report indicates that the roots of contemporary obstetric preventive medicine can be traced to Biblical times.

Guest Post: What Does the Bible Say About Menstruation?

The Feminist Mystique
June 4, 2012
The following is a guest post from Brett Maiden, a PhD student in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. He studies the Hebrew Bible and 3.3-5_Cenci_young_womanreligions of the ancient Near East, and his current research explores the role of evolved cognitive architecture in shaping impurity laws and representations of divine agents.

In a hilariously provocative essay, Gloria Steinem ran an interesting thought experiment based on the hypothetical question “what would happen if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?” She surmised the following:

Clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event. Men would brag about how long and how much…Generals, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation (“men-struation”) as proof that only men could serve God and country in combat (“You have to give blood to take blood”), occupy high political office (“Can women be properly fierce without a monthly cycle governed by the planet Mars?”), be priests, ministers, God Himself (“He gave this blood for our sins”), or rabbis (“Without a monthly purge of impurities, women are unclean”).

Despite Ms. Steinem’s gift for raising public consciousness through satire, this scenario clearly does not reflect the reality of our situation. Far from it. Even among highly industrialized western societies, menstruation and menstrual blood are topics quickly swept under the proverbial rug. For example, a substantial majority of U.S. adults and adolescents believe that it is socially unacceptable to discuss menstruation, even within the family. When it is mentioned, it is usually spoken of in familiar euphemisms (“on the rag” and “the curse”). This silence has led to feelings of horror and confusion and has perpetuated a general ignorance about menstrual bleeding. The feminist Simon de Beauvoir, in recalling the experience of her first period, wondered what “shameful malady I was suffering from.” Overall, therefore, there exists the unfortunate view among some—of both sexes—that menstruating women are impure and repulsive. The menstrual taboo has a long historical legacy and the Bible itself is not shy about tackling the “problem” of menstruation. Given the prominent position that this collection of books is accorded in our society as well as the number of people who claim to live by its literal interpretation, it is critical to examine what the Bible actually says about menstruation.

We begin our brief survey with the most complete discussion of menstrual impurity in the Bible, found in chapter 15 of the Book of Leviticus. This book is, from an academic perspective, one of the most interesting texts in the Bible, while at the same time one of the most troubling from the perspective of modern ethical sensibilities.

According to Leviticus 15:19-33, a menstruating woman is considered impure for seven days and contaminates anything upon which she sits or lies during that time. Anyone who touches her becomes impure. Anyone who touches anything she has contaminated becomes impure and they must wash their clothes, bathe in water, and remain impure until the evening. Moreover, intercourse with a menstruating woman causes a man to be impure for seven days, and anything he touches thereafter likewise becomes impure. Menstrual blood was thus considered exceedingly potent, to say the least. Lastly, it is worth noting that when a woman gives birth she is also “impure as at the time of her menstruation” (Lev 12:12-5). If she bears a male baby, she remains impure for 33 days. If she bears a female baby, the time is double.

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PG

Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.