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Studies in Bible and Feminist Criticism (JPS Scholar of Distinction Series)

Authored by Tikva Frymer-Kensky

Publication Year: 2006

Each of the 30 essays here delves into a topic that gives us much food for thought: the Bible as interpreted through ancient Near-Eastern creation myths, flood myths, and goddess myths; gender in the Bible; the feminist approach to Jewish law; comparative Jewish and Christian perspectives on the Hebrew Bible; biblical perspectives on ecology; creating a theology of healing; feminine God-talk. The volume concludes with the author's own original prayers in the form of poetic meditations on pregnancy and birthing. This book is unique, not only because it is the only volume in the JPS Scholar of Distinction series written by a woman, but also because Frymer-Kensky's personal and forthright voice resonates so clearly throughout each piece. Scholars and students of Bible, Jewish studies, and women's studies will surely find this to be a one-of-a kind collection.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society

Title Page

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pp. ix-x

It is hard to know whom to acknowledge and thank for help in work that has spanned over thirty years. First, I would like to thank Judith Lawrence, my secretary at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago...

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Introduction: A Retrospective

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pp. xi-xxiv

Sometimes decisions of which you are not even aware can have an enormous impact on your life. The autumn of my second year in elementary school was a traumatic time for me. The public schools in Queens must have adopted the educational principles of John Dewey...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxv-xxvi


Creation Myths

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p. 3-3

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1. Atrahasis: An Introduction

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pp. 5-18

Stories of human creation are often incorporated into larger mythic traditions. Some, for instance, are used in myths which describe the creation of the entire cosmos; others are used to introduce histories of the human race...

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2. The Planting of Man: A Study in Biblical Imagery

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pp. 19-34

There are two distinct traditions about the creation of man in Sumerian literature. In one, man is created from clay, most probably an analogy to the work of potters and sculptors. This tradition is continued in Akkadian literature, where creation from clay becomes the dominant image of the origin of man, and, of course...

Flood Myths

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pp. 35-36

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3. Israel and the Ancient Near East:New Perspectives on the Flood

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pp. 37-50

The publication of a Babylonian flood story (Gilgamesh tablet XI) in 1872 and of a creation story (Enuma Elish) several years later made it inevitable that attempts would be made to analyze the biblical tradition in the light of the new material coming from Babylon...

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4. The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1-9

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pp. 51-66

Three different Babylonian stories of the flood have survived: the Sumerian flood story, the ninth tablet of the Gilgamesh epic, and the Atrahasis epic....

Goddess Myths

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pp. 67-68

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5. Goddesses: Biblical Echoes

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pp. 69-82

The current interest in women in the Bible is partly theological. The wave of feminism has raised fundamental questions about the nature of monotheism, the sexuality of monotheism, and the gender messages it conveys. In the last twenty-five years...

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6. Lolita-Inanna

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pp. 83-88

Inanna, as we all know, is the most changeable and mercurial of goddesses, a mistress of opposites and paradoxes, a god with radically changeable personality and functions, a god who not only bends gender but may also change sex in herself, and at least cultically, in her worshipers. Is there a rational order to these changes?...


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7. The Image: Religious Anthropology in Judaism and Christianity

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pp. 91-108

When Jews think about Christianity, they are often struck by ideas and images fundamentally different from Jewish traditions. Icons, statues, incense, crucifixes, and even crosses create a physical environment radically different from Jewish worship...

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8. Biblical Voices on Chosenness

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pp. 109-118

When people think of the Bible on questions of election and covenant, it is the voice of Deuteronomy that comes through loud and clear, for Deuteronomy emphasizes the special relationship between God and Israel, God's "chosen people."...

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9. Jesus and the Law

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pp. 119-132

Writing about Jesus and the law1 is a little like trying to solve an algebra problem when all that is known is that, perhaps, X has some sort of relationship to Y. As should be clear from the preceding selections, we have trouble knowing exactly what we mean when we talk about "Jesus"...

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10. Covenant: A Jewish Biblical Perspective

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pp. 133-156

"Covenant" is in the air again. The concept had enormous popularity in the early and mid-twentieth century,1 when it was hailed as the key to biblical theology. But its popularity among modern thinkers waned as biblical theologians abandoned their attempt...


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11. The Bible and Women's Studies

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pp. 159-184

In the past two decades there has been a tremendous change in biblical studies. The scientistic philosophy that prevailed for more than a century has given way, in biblical studies as in other humanities, to a more sophisticated understanding of the interaction between the now and the then, the reader and the text...

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12. The Ideology of Gender in the Bible and the Ancient Near East

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pp. 185-194

At first sight, Sumer and Israel seem separated by an overwhelming distance. Apart by at least a millennium, different in ecology and in language. Nevertheless, the two cultures had much in common, and show many facets of the same cultural continuum...

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13. Sanctifying Torah

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pp. 195-208

The story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2-3 is not really a story about sin and punishment. If we read the story from a perspective that cherishes human culture and that values moral agency over submission, the story relates humanity's first step toward knowledge...

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14. Reading Rahab

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pp. 209-222

As we study a biblical story that is often simple on its surface, it opens like a rose to reveal complexities and significance unhinted at on the surface. I am delighted to dedicate this reading to Moshe Greenberg, who taught us to lift our eyes from the word and the verse and to look at biblical texts as coherent literary units...


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15. Patriarchal Family Relationships and Near Eastern Law

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pp. 225-238

The stories of Genesis are so much a part of our own culture, and so vivid in and of themselves, that we tend to treat them as timeless, almost universal, pieces of literature. Whether or not we regard them as sacred Scripture, we analyze them for their literary structure, their moral import, and their psychological truths...

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16. Law and Philosophy: The Caseof Sex in the Bible

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pp. 239-254

For the modern scholar, ancient law offers many challenges and types of inquiry. First and foremost, of course, it demands to be studied for itself, as a legal system of a society: how are problems adjudicated, what is to be done in the case of theft, what is the nature of property rights, and so forth?...

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17. Halakhah, Law, and Feminism

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pp. 255-262

The last three decades have seen an enormous paradigm shift in our perception of reality and history. The old ideas of "oobjective sciences" on which many of us were raised, the old conceptions of History as "what actually happened...

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18. The Feminist Challenge toHalakhah

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pp. 263-282

Halakhah1 has faced many challenges during the several thousand years of its existence, some of them quite fundamental and far-reaching, that have resulting in major changes in the way we look at halakhah. An example is the dialogue with Aristotelianism which has so much to do with the codification of Jewish law and the change...


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19. Revelation Revealed: The Doubt of Torah

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pp. 285-294

The institution of torah and the appropriate attitude toward and use of torah is so well established in Jewish tradition that it is hard to imagine that its use in the Bible is not as well established or as simple as we might have believed...

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20. Moses and the Cults: The Question of Religious Leadership

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pp. 295-306

A significant phenomenon of the contemporary religious scene is the continuing attraction of large numbers of people, mostly young, to such groups as the Society for Krishna Consciousness (Hare Krishna), the Unification Church...

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21. The Theology of Catastrophe:A Question of Historical Justice

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pp. 307-314

Two passages in ancient Near Eastern literature are striking for their extraordinary view of historical justice. The better known of the two is the discourse between Abraham and God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah...

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22. The End of the World and the Limits of Biblical Ecology

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pp. 315-328

It was only a year ago, though it seems much longer, that the end of the world was in the air. Places were going to drop out of the skies, not because their pilots went up in the rapture, but because their computers crashed on encountering double zeroes...

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23. Pollution, Purification, and Purgation in Biblical Israel

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pp. 329-350

The ideas of pollution, purity, and purification were fundamental concepts of biblical Israel. The desire for purity was so intense that a major social class, the priesthood, was entrusted with the task of determining and giving instruction about purity and impurity. Pollution, the lack of purity, could affect individuals, the Temple...

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24. Ecology in a Biblical Perspective

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pp. 351-362

We have become accustomed, in both Judaism and Christianity, to attribute to the Bible the origin of everything good and evil. Needless to say, such an attitude has no basis in fact: the world was not a barren wasteland before the writings of the Bible...


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25. The Emergence of Jewish Biblical Theologies

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pp. 365-38-

At one time, not too long ago, writing on "Jewish biblical theology" would have been considered unthinkable. It was a truism that Jews don't do theology, and the long roster of distinguished Jewish theologians of the twentieth century, Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber...

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26. Constructing a Theology ofHealing

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pp. 381-392

In ancient Mesopotamia, a person who felt sick would go to a diagnostician, a baru, or diviner, who would investigate the cause of the illness. If he deemed that the cause was "natural" a chemical imbalance or something like that, then the sufferer would...

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27. On Feminine God-Talk

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pp. 393-402

Passover is here as I write this, and we have been singing songs around the Passover table. Joyfully we raise our voices: Adir Hu, Barukh Hu, Gadol Hu, Dagul Hu. Hu. Hu. Hu. Hu. "He. He. He. He". He is noble, He is blessed...

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28. Woman Jews

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pp. 403-424

Judaism is a religion, a thought-system, a tradition, a history, a community, and a way of life, all intertwined. The very richness of the tapestry makes it difficult to define or pin down the Jewish belief and practice system. There are many voices, many periods of history, many disputes and agreements to disagree. The story of women in Judaism is similarly complicated, constantly in flux, and even more so today...

29. Like a Birthing Woman

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pp. 425-426

30. Shaddai

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pp. 427-428

Bibliography of the Published Writings of Tikva Frymer-Kensky

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pp. 429-436

E-ISBN-13: 9780827609976
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827607989

Publication Year: 2006

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