What can animal studies contribute to feminist biblical interpretation? This essay explores this question by calling attention to the role of feminist and gender analysis in contemporary interdisciplinary animal studies. Such studies point out that animals are often associated with women and with racial and ethnic others. After summarizing key positions from animal studies, the essay turns to several texts from the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets to outline the association between animals and women and ethnic others (especially Philistines) in biblical literature. The association demonstrates that another layer of complexity to male domination—or carnophallogocentrism—structures biblical literature.
Sara M. Koenig
The biblical texts about Bathsheba have notorious gaps, even by the laconic standards of Hebrew narrative. Post-biblical receptions of the story flesh out the terse chapters of 2 Samuel 11–12 and 1 Kings 1–2, ascribing feelings and motives to Bathsheba and David that are not contained in the Hebrew text. This essay examines the intersection of reception history and feminist biblical scholarship by considering eleven novels about Bathsheba from the twentieth and twenty-first century. These novels expand Bathsheba’s character beyond the text, but in fairly gender stereotypical ways, such that feminist readers of the novels may be left wanting more.
This article examines the misuse of biblical texts in order to underpin the ideology of an ‘Aryan’ or ‘German Christendom’. Seen against the backdrop of anti-Semitic ideologies, it asks to what extent were biblical texts of the Old and New Testament misused in order to uphold anti-Semitic ideas or within the framework of anti-Semitic propaganda? The focus is on typical, regularly appearing motifs, which can be encountered in anti-Semitically motivated exegesis, especially in the National Socialist milieu. The same exegesis reappears — fatally enough — in the form of stereotypically reiterated statements among authors who can by no means be reproached with an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic mindset. The case becomes even more precarious once said stereotypes catch on in wide circles of the church and society — to break through them after their acceptance involves an immense struggle and strain.
Carole R. Fontaine
This essay explores the socially restrictive traditions that cause scriptural groups to reject the idea of universal rights and equal access to economic, social and cultural rights. This hermeneutical situation is difficult to tolerate, as our multicultural planet is seeking survival. Ethical issues and the principles of a culture’s morality are often partly religious in nature. The UNDUHR recognizes the right to believe and to promote one’s own beliefs, and it considers these particular rights as being part of a cultural “right to affiliate.” Nevertheless, international human rights law has not successfully promoted full human rights in countries of “Religions of the Book.” The essay thus suggests that appeals to the Bible grounded in human rights must be woven into contextual exegetical work, human rights discourse, and feminist critique. Even so, for women, foreigners, and “Others,” the Bible will remain a serious obstacle for enjoying full economic, social, and cultural rights.
Linda S. Schearing
In recent years much has been written about religion, gender, and video games. Indeed, video game worlds often give concrete expression to powerful mythic themes. The video game Bioshock is a good example. Using both feminist and reception criticism, this essay explores the role of Eve/woman in the video game series Bioshock. Bioshock is the story of Eden—a secular Eden gone terribly wrong. While the essay examines how the game uses the Genesis creation story, it focuses on the character of Eve. In the biblical text, Eve is named the “mother of all living” and in Bioshock, Eve is life in a literal sense. The game’s resulting objectification of Eve is extreme in its portrayal and interesting in its implications. It is a prime example of the intersection between virtual and actual reality, as it addresses issues of morality and gender.
Judith E. McKinlay
The essay takes as its cue the biblical figures of Eve and Wisdom, both of whom slip through the divine/human border. Eve brings knowledge of good and evil and Wisdom offers a concern for human ethical choices. For what characterizes feminist and postcolonial studies is the hope and ideal of a future of respect for all. A discussion of feminist postcolonial critical theory and current work in the field assesses that despite differing methodologies scholars share a concern for the ways in which women are represented and frequently “othered” in border-slipping texts. The study also considers a selection of biblical texts from a range of eras and political circumstances to illustrate these varying representations. The essay concludes with a reflection on the significance of the work and attempts to predict future directions.
Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
Feminist biblical studieaas engage both wo/men and gender studies for their work, but the feminist analysis is not identical with and cannot be limited to gender studies. Rather, feminist biblical studies needs to focus on issues of power and structures of domination in light of wo/men’s struggles against kyriarchal relations. Accordingly, feminist biblical studies are social-cultural-political studies of domination, exploring how the Bible and biblical interpretation function and are shaped in the context of global kyriarchal neoliberalism. If the analytic object of feminist theory and biblical studies is not simply woman or gender in the Bible but the intersectionality of domination—of kyriarchy (from the Greek kyrios for “lord, master, legal guardian” and archein for “to rule, dominate”), the object needs to be understood in terms of the ontology of kyriarchal power. Kyriarchal relations of domination are characteristic of the ancient biblical worlds and are still at work today in the multiplicative intersectionalities of class, race, gender, ethnicity, empire, and other structures of exploitation. Hence, biblical interpretation must not only be practiced in terms of its content but also in terms of its function in global neo-liberalism, which is not only a theory of market relations but also a theory of human relations. We are encouraged to think not only of our work but also of our lives in economic terms in global neoliberal societies. These societies are characterized by xenophobic reactions against displaced populations and strangers, the threat of global warming, political polarization, unemployment, poverty, and centuries of exploitation, as well as by the devaluation of societal equality and democratic multiplicity.
Michael J. Gilmour
Few contemporary artists have endured so long, reinvented themselves so frequently and successfully (folk, rock, country, gospel music), and contributed in such diverse media (music, film, poetry, prose, sketches) as Bob Dylan. What is more, there may be no other artist of the 20th and 21st centuries with such an unusual list of significant honours: Grammy Awards; an Academy Award (2000); a Polar Music Prize (2000); a Kennedy Center Honour (1997); honorary doctorates (Princeton University; St Andrew's University); nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature; and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation (2008), among them. In addition to this impressive list, Bob Dylan's music and writing is often the subject of serious academic analysis from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including literary, cultural, religious, and music studies. This article argues that the use of the Bible in the songs and other art forms that comprise the Bob Dylan canon defies simplistic systematization and containment within categories. Dylan's art is idiosyncratic, involves constant blending and bending of his sources, and is often inconsistent; a biblical image or phrase used one way in one time and place may appear quite different in another.
Carol J. Dempsey OP
For centuries Catholic biblical scholars translated the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek books of the Bible into English with the goal of producing even “better” translations than before. Yet whether these translations follow the principles of formal or dynamic equivalence, no translation is without theological, cultural, gender, racial, and ethnocentric biases, as all translations are interpretations. Many translations thus reflect the theological positions of religious denominations commissioning them. The forthcoming revision of the Catholic New American Bible is not an exception. This essay considers the androcentric preferences in some of the latest contemporary scholarly Bible translations into English and then examines the revised translation of the anticipated new edition of the Catholic Bible, the principles guiding the translation revision, and the issues that both the translation and principles bring to the fore. While the essay refers to the forthcoming edition of the Catholic New American Bible as a whole, the focus is on the revision of the Old Testament in particular.
Dora R. Mbuwayesango
The essay surveys how Bible translations produced by modern colonial missionaries distorted African cultures and religions with special focus on the Shona people of Zimbabwe. It also explains, by focusing on the Shona translation of Genesis 1–3, how the adoption of the name of the Shona god, Mwari, into the Bible introduced foreign patriarchal notions to the Shona understanding of their god, and also a conception of gender and sexuality that promoted the marginalization of women and oppressive homophobic ideas. The essay concludes with pointing out the need to apply postcolonial feminist approach to Bible translation in order decolonize and depatriarchalize Bible translation and interpretation in Africa.
Correlated to the experiences of Korean comfort women, the story of Solomon’s judgment (1 Kgs. 3:16–28) becomes a resistance narrative to hegemonic powers. The interpretation discusses the literary strategies of the women’s identities and naming, the emerging reversal of power, the issues of mimicry, mockery, ambiguity, and the conspiracy of readers. The Japanese military comfort women of World War II serve as the geopolitical context with which the interpretation justifies its focus on the two biblical women. It becomes apparent that colonizing and patriarchal powers ignore victim-survivors of sexual violence and abuse whether in the biblical text or in recent Korean history. Biblical texts and recent wartime events illuminate each other.
Arthur W. Walker-Jones
This chapter examines the Jezebel.com website as a feminist interpretation of the biblical story of Jezebel, in order to discuss the ways digital media make reading more transparent, intertextual, and holistic. Donna Haraway’s article “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” is a seminal work for both ecofeminism and the digital humanities. This articles uses her understanding of the cyborg and naturecultures to argue that Jezebel has become a cyborg online. Cyborgs and digital media could be used to reinforce the nature–culture dualism that is related to male–female dualism and has legitimated patriarchy and the environmental crisis. This chapter, therefore, argues that the identification of cyborg naturecultures in reading both the biblical stories and digital cultures is particularly important for ecofeminist approaches to the Hebrew Bible.
This essay investigates the challenges of feminist biblical scholarship within “the neoliberal university.” After a short introduction to “neoliberalism,” which is based on Manfred B. Steger’s and Ravi K. Roy’s description of neoliberalism as an ideology, a mode of governance, and a policy package, the essay addresses the various tensions between the values central to feminism and the values constitutive of the neoliberal university. The essay shows that some feminist Bible scholars have begun reflecting on the impact of neoliberalism on feminist biblical studies. The essay indicates the direction for further work, including feminist reception history and empirical studies on the conditions for feminist biblical scholarship in “the neoliberal university.”
Katy E. Valentine
This essay adds another voice to feminist and woman-centered voices in biblical interpretation: the transgender voice, specifically the trans woman voice. Drawn from interviews with transgender persons, the essay explores texts that support trans women and disrupts a binary understanding of gender. I begin with some term definitions and a brief examination of the rich tapestry of women in Scripture who are valued for reasons other than procreation (i.e. Miriam, Deborah, Judith), suggesting that procreation alone is not a viable determinant for womanhood. The essay then turns to Gen. 1:27, a verse that many gender variant interpreters have embraced as confirmation that femininity and masculinity are found in the first human being as an androgyne. This interpretation is echoed in Paul’s use of the baptismal formula. The essay concludes with a reflection on the gifts that a transgender hermeneutic offers feminist and woman-centered methodologies.
This essay explores various musical works that retell the stories of biblical women who are largely silent in the biblical text. It analyzes operas and oratorios featuring biblical women with prominent roles in more than one musical work. These are: Sarah, Hagar, and Rebecca in the book of Genesis; Jochebed, Pharaoh’s daughter, and Miriam in the book of Exodus; and Michal and Bathsheba in the books of Samuel. This research draws on my previous scholarship on nineteenth- and twentieth-century opera, oratorio, and song settings of biblical women. Many musical settings of biblical narratives focus intensely on the women. The women’s singing voices add new elements to their depictions, and librettos almost always enlarge the women’s roles. Composers and librettists together turn the women into three-dimensional characters. The essay presents various threads in numerous musical works that tie together the re-visioning of several biblical women. The goal is to illustrate how the selected women move from the biblical background to the musical foreground, and to offer new and surprising perspectives on biblical women.
Charles M. Rix
Traditional readings of Joshua 2 cast Rahab as a clever Canaanite heroine who saves both herself and her family from God’s ban on Jericho. Such a reading re-inscribes an androcentric model of living with one’s enemy via a warrior-styled conquest. But more importantly, such an approach bypasses the reality that Rahab and the spies survive via a strategy of mutual cooperation, an unexpected move in a game of war. I propose game theory’s classic situation of The Prisoner’s Dilemma as a means to observe Rahab and the spies as players on equal footing in a high stakes game of survival. As gamers who cooperate rather than conquer, Rahab and the spies undercut the expected, or rational, means for Israelite/Canaanite engagement: war, conquest, and strategies of “othering” and violence found in the Torah. Rather than domination, cooperation surfaces as the unexpected, or irrational, strategy that results in the preferred path to achieving the maximum mutual benefit: survival and subsequent sharing in life together.
“Patriarchy,” a social science model denoting male dominance, has long been used to represent ancient Israel. However, its validity as a model can be contested. This paper first reviews the history of the patriarchy model in social-science and biblical scholarship, showing how it arose when nineteenth-century anthropologists used Greek and Roman sources (mainly legal texts) in their study of the family, and was then expanded by sociologists (e.g. Weber) to indicate society-wide male dominance; biblical scholarship took up both aspects of the model. It then describes how the patriarchy model has been challenged in several areas: classical scholarship, research on Israelite women, and feminist theory. It concludes by suggesting that “heterarchy” is a more appropriate model.
The “Abrahamic” has become a common touchstone in the theory and practice of interfaith dialog between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. However, there are major issues with this formula. Most of all, it elevates Abraham but marginalizes his wives, Sarah and Hagar, and so the formula sustains a dubious hegemony in which patriarchs matter more than matriarchs. Although their tales are interpreted in divergent ways in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, related challenges arise in each tradition. In this chapter I unpack some of these issues using works of art by artists including Edmonia Lewis, George Segal, Adi Nes, and Siona Benjamin. The conclusion speculates on the wider possibilities for using the visual arts as a tool for interfaith dialog and feminist critique.
Vanessa L. Lovelace
The appropriation by U.S.-American blacks of the Egyptian enslaved woman, Hagar, as she appears in the book of Genesis, is epitomized in black art, literature, and cinema. Yet less familiar is the appropriation of Hagar by nineteenth-century, middle-class, white women novelists, who mostly lived during the antebellum Southern era. Their novels feature a dark, wild, female protagonist named Hagar who appears as a racially ambiguous woman. She is usually orphaned or abandoned, and she overcomes many obstacles and adversaries to fulfill her life’s purpose in the domestic sphere. Sometimes she is openly compared with the biblical Hagar, depicted as having African ancestry, and characterized as an untamed woman who is free of society’s gender constraints. Nineteenth-century domestic novels thus present stories about Hagar as a temporary escape for middle-class white women’s perceived enslavement to traditional gender expectations, as they experienced them in their individual lives. At the same time, the domestic novels disregard the experiences of nineteenth-century enslaved black women.
David A. Schones
This essay offers an intertextual reading of Proverbs and the Dao De Jing based on the use of feminine imagery. Both the Dao De Jing and Proverbs employ feminine imagery to convey each text’s notion of the proper way. In both traditions, feminist scholars have long critiqued the ideological positions attributed to female figures. By drawing upon the diverse thematic strands in each text, the particularities of the notion of “femininity” can be explicated. Interestingly, this engagement allows the Daoist construction of the feminine to destabilize the patriarchal underpinnings of woman wisdom in Proverbs. In turn, the liberating aspects of the strong woman can be compared to, and used to critique, the conception of femininity in the Dao De Jing.