Explorations in Feminist Interpretation
Publication Year: 2013
Changing Horizons is the second of two volumes highlighting the ways in which Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s work constructs a critical feminist theory and praxis of liberation, in relation to the biblical text and its legacy, and in relation to the theological and ecclesial setting of today. In these essays collected from her extraordinary career, Schüssler Fiorenza attempts to free both biblical studies and theology from disciplinary constraints and assumptions that have allowed them to acquiesce and even perpetuate forms of oppression—from racism and poverty to colonialism and gender equality.
While Schüssler Fiorenza’s feminist critical approach begins with the experience of women, that experience is appropriated through the lens of critical theory and a critical understanding of social and religious oppressions. It is, further, political in its aim to dethrone kyriarchal structures and foment genuinely egalitarian community in church and society.
Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
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Title Page, Copyright
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Many people have been involved in producing this collection of essays andmany thanks are in order. I am grateful to the editors and publishers whooriginally edited and published these articles; many of them were written by ayoung, emerging scholar. As the senior editor of the Journal of Feminist Studiesin Religion, I am well aware of how much care and work such editing takes....
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The following chapters were first published in other places, as follows. I thankthe publishers for their permission to reprint these essays here.Introduction, “Claiming the Authority of Biblical Interpretation,” RevistaChapter 1. “Interpreting Patriarchal Traditions,” in The Liberating Word: AGuide to Nonsexist Interpretation of the Bible, edited by Letty Russell, 39–61...
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Fifty years ago feminist biblical studies was not yet born. Today it is a growing,developing, and stimulating field of study.1 I am often asked: With whomdid you study feminist the*logy? And I unfailingly answer: When I studiedthe*logy2 in the 1960s, feminist the*logy and feminist studies in religion didnot exist. Hence, we had to invent it. Since the history of feminist biblical...
Part I. Charting Critical Feminist Biblical Hermeneutics
1 Interpreting Patriarchal Traditions
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The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures originated in a patriarchal societyand perpetuated the androcentric (male-centered) traditions of their culture.Today, feminist analyses have uncovered the detrimental effects of these tradi-tions on women’s self-understanding and role in society and in the churches.Christians, both women and men, consequently face a grave dilemma. On...
2 Toward a Christian Feminist Biblical Hermeneutics: Biblical Interpretation and Liberation Theology
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To discuss the relationship between liberation theology and biblical interpret-ation in general, and to ask for the function of the Bible in the struggle ofwomen for liberation in particular, is to enter an intellectual and emotionalminefield. One must detect and lay bare the contradictions between historicalexegesis and systematic theology, between value-neutral scientific inquiry and...
3 Feminist Interpretation and New Testament Studies
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In reconstructing the past, exegetes and theologians construct the world.What we live in is not an objectified reality but an intellectual universe thatwe create socially and imaginatively. Our ideas, values, social institutions,belief-systems, and theological convictions together produce a sense of lifeand reality, a perception of the way things are. To anyone living in a total...
4 For the Sake of the Truth Dwelling among Us: Emerging Issues in Feminist Biblical Interpretation
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The second letter of John—the only writing of the New Testament addressedto a woman—was written “for the sake of the truth that dwells among us andwill be with us forever.” Biblical interpretation as theological interpretationis concerned with the divine presence dwelling among the people of God inthe past and in the present. Feminist Christian biblical interpretation makes...
5 The Will to Choose or to Reject: Continuing Our Critical Work
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Adrienne Rich has pointed out that this poem of Emily Dickinson’s is apoem of great pride and self-confirmation, of transcending the patriarchalcondition, of movement from unconsciousness to consciousness. She cautionsus, however, not to give it a theological reading, because Emily Dickinson“used the Christian metaphor far more than she let it use her.”1...
6 Feminist Hermeneutics
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Writing a dictionary article on feminist hermeneutics may encourage severalmisconceptions. It gives the impression that feminist hermeneutics is a fin-ished research product rather than an ongoing process within the context ofwomen’s societal and ecclesial struggles for justice and liberation. It also high-lights proposed solutions rather than the experiences and questions that have...
7 Theology as Rhetoric, Ethics, and Critique of Ideology
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A critical feminist theology of liberation, I have argued, demands a refor-mulation of biblical scholarship as critique of ideology,1 rhetoric, and ethics.It poses a fundamental scholarly theoretical question to the self-concept ofbiblical scholarship, theological scholarship, and ethics, and insists on thetheo-ethical principle that wo/men are theological subjects. It brings the...
8 Disciplinary Matters: A Critical Rhetoric and Ethic of Inquiry
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In the past decade or so rhetorical criticism has developed not only as atextual-exegetical practice but also as an interdisciplinary rhetoric of inquirythat serves as a epistemological meta-reflection on the theoretical and meth-odological practices of the discipline.1 Thomas Olbricht has pointed to thebroad interdisciplinary character of rhetorical criticism since the academic...
9 The Power of Empire and the Rhetoric of Scripture
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In the past several years scholars have focused on empire1—the Roman andthe American—and assessed its impact on the rhetorical power of Scripture,2which is claimed by Christians to be the authoritative revealed, sacred word ofG*d.3 Scholars concerned about the function of the Bible in people’s lives andseek to read the signs of the times, endeavor to critically evaluate the Bible’s...
Part II. Practicing Feminist Biblical Interpretation
10 To Set the Record Straight: Biblical Women's Studies
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In the early 1970s, women’s studies emerged as an independent discipline. Inall areas of scientific knowledge, courses and research projects were developedto expand our knowledge of women’s cultural-scientific contributions aswell as to challenge androcentric texts, scholarly frameworks, and scientificreconstructions that overlooked or marginalized wo/men. Women’s studies in...
11 Biblical Interpretation and Critical Commitment: The Gospel of John
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It is told that at a synod in Ephesus, “the robber synod,” a sharpSigmund Mowinckel told this story in a debate about the church as a“spiritual community.” Both the old hermit and the Norwegian professor couldnot conceive of a conceptualization of religion, the divine, and the church thatdid not take historical, particular, embodied reality into account. Unlike the...
12 The Politics of Otherness: Biblical Interpretation as a Critical Praxis for Liberation
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Gustavo Gutiérrez has placed in the center of the*logical reflection the poor,the “others,” the nonpersons who are absent from history. He has insistedover and against Euro-American “progressive” the*logy that the point ofdeparture for Latin American liberation the*logy is not the question of themodern nonbeliever but the struggle of the nonperson1 for justice and freedom....
13 ``Waiting at Table'': A Critical Feminist The*logical Reflection on Diakonia
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The Greek term diakonia means literally “waiting at tables” but isusually translated as “service” or “ministry.”1 We can distinguish twodifferent meanings in the New Testament usage of the word-clusterdiakonia/diakonos/diakonein that have become paradigmatic for later the*logy.In a religious-spiritualized sense the word-cluster signifies an honorary...
14 The Twelve and the Discipleship of Equals
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Against the understanding of the early Christian movement as a discipleshipof equals1 it is often argued that Jesus chose and commissioned twelvemen to be the apostolic leaders of the early church.2 The institution ofthe twelve apostles—so the argument goes—proves that the hierarchicallyordered apostolic ministry stood above the equality of all believers3 in the...
15 Resisting Violence—Engendering Easter
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In this time before Holy Week and Easter we are poised to commemoratenot only the suffering and execution of Jesus condemned to death as aninsurrectionist by the Romans but also that of all those who seek justice andwhose bodies or souls are being destroyed in the process.1 We have gathered inthis sacred space at a time when right-wing reactionary voices in society and...
16 Liberation, Unity, and Equality in Community: New Testament Case Studies
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The method suggested for this consultation sponsored by the Faith and Orderdepartment of the World Council of Churches in 1985 is not platonic or do-cetist but incarnational. Case studies about the relations of wo/men and menin society and church are the*logical reflections on very concrete experiencesand ecclesial situations. Such a the*logical method is incarnational insofar as...
17 Bread/Rice of Wisdom: Interpretation for Liberation
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In the past decade or so, Christian feminist the*logians have rediscoveredthe significance of Divine Wisdom-Sophia as the other name and face of theCreator G*d. Although biblical scholarship has pointed to the importanceof the biblical wisdom traditions for quite some time, it has been feministthe*logy and liturgy that have made Divine Wisdom present and recognizable...
18 Wisdom's ``Dance'': Practicing a Critical Feminist Interpretation
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In the last thirty years or so, feminist biblical studies1 have been establishedas a new field of learning with its own publications and methods.2 It istaught in schools, colleges, and universities and is practiced by many scholarsin different parts of the world. While feminist biblical studies was not inexistence more than thirty years ago, today it is a blooming field of inquiry...
19 Claiming the Word: Charting Global Feminist Biblical Studies
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Now that feminist biblical studies1 have come of age and are moving towardthe future it is timely to assess this field of study and its prospects in aglobal context. Such a worldwide context reveals at one and the same timethe exploitation of wo/men around the world and the feminist affirmation ofcultural particularities and wo/men’s networking in solidarity to bring about...
Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013