As we look toward the future of feminist biblical studies and remain committed to the field’s theoretical and practical concerns, I invite scholars to consider a methodological approach to feminist biblical studies that emphasizes [End Page 138] the function of scriptures in women’s lives and their struggles for justice. This approach is grounded in the work of religious historians Vincent L. Wimbush, William A. Graham, and Miriam Levering, who have all challenged scholars of religion to give more serious thought to individuals and communities and their engagements with scriptures.1 Their scholarship undergirds my dedication to a feminist biblical studies focus that gives serious attention to the work of scriptures in the lives of women and their efforts toward justice.
In addition to this theoretical underpinning, which guides my overall research, I am concerned with issues of praxis and pedagogy as we consider the future of feminist biblical studies. I am convinced that this roundtable discussion must be held with the questions, concerns, and issues of undergraduate students in mind. Students, such as those that I have the privilege of teaching at a small, liberal arts college founded by women, for women, with the purpose of promoting equality and justice, make up the community for which we must consider and reconsider the questions of feminist biblical studies.
As you know, Facebook is a social networking site that has taken over life as we know it. It is wildly popular particularly with undergraduate students, and students in my recent Hebrew Scriptures course are no exception. Though I don’t interact with them through Facebook, nor do we have a class Facebook page, a student in my class let me know that there was a Facebook discussion related to our class. She noted that if I was interested, she would forward the entire Facebook conversation to me by e-mail. I accepted.
The Facebook conversation reflected some of the hermeneutical challenges with which my students grapple. Here are a few excerpts from that dialogue. I have changed the names, but have remained true to their actual words, as you will “hear.”
I hate listening to dumb-ass feminist interpretations of the Bible from people who haven’t even read it. Using the word sexist doesn’t make you smart. [18 people “liked” this comment.]Jennifer:
Like if you read a biblical story and ONLY see evidence of how the Bible is anti-woman AND you don’t see the morality—then you’re pretty small minded. [End Page 139]Karen:
How is the Bible flattering to women?Jennifer:
Uhmm Esther, Jael, Rahab, Ruth…. There are lots of examples of women who trust God and are used to help other Israelites. (Implied and there are other women who do good.) Mary Jesus’s mother, Elizabeth mother of John the Baptist.Karen:
Every single woman that you listed is valued for their “side-kick” contribution to a man or their ability to procreate. Sorry, but I would rather not be applauded for being especially great at breeding or honoring a patriarchal “God.”Jennifer:
But, there are so many examples.Karen:
Note the way you described and qualified who the women were based on—the men they gave birth to; a perfect example of the way that the Bible has brainwashed centuries of readers.Jennifer:
Esther didn’t give birth to anyone. She influenced the king to save all of the Jewish people.Karen:
“Influenced the king.” Listen to the language in your comments. Can’t you realize how desensitized years of private-school education has turned you toward such horrendously sexist speech?Jennifer:
See this is what I hate—arguments (by girls) that fail to acknowledge the stories in the Bible that don’t illustrate this idea that the Bible is sexist.Jennifer:
I don’t get how you can’t appreciate the fact that—yeah—women were stuck in a patriarchal society but that they were capable of doing good anyway.
This Facebook excerpt reflects opposing interpretive views expressed through a type of contemporary discourse. On the one hand, Jennifer’s comments suggest that she opposes biblical interpretations that focus primarily on issues of patriarchy and...