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Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 207 Reviews I WILL LOVE UNLOVED: A LINGUISTIC ANALYSIS OF WOMAN'S BIBLICAL IMPORTANCE. By Jennifer J. McKenzie. pp. viii + 377. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994. Paper, $32.50. The purpose of the book is "to see if a document written about a supposed patriarchal Deity, imposed by a patriarchal society, had validity for modem woman" (p. 1). The author's conclusion to her own question being yes, she hopes as well to show how systematic erosion of a female/feminine viewpoint occurred through various types of distortion: disordered texts, changes of words, poor perception of gender, and refusal or inability to recognize or employ facts regarding women. Further, she hopes to make the Bible accessible to those who may not be familiar with it. Both the quest and the question are worthy, and McKenzie is not the first to investigate ; and though she refers to feminist criticism, she asserts her premises and conclusions will differ from other studies. Indeed they do. The book is divided into three major sections: first exploring material in the Hebrew Bible that she considers pre-exilic; second, discussing the issues and texts relevant between 586 BCE and 1 CE; and third, exploring the material of the early Christian era. There are many charts, ten tables (not listed for reference), and two appendices (one explaining the Hebrew alphabet and the other exploring the gender of [more precisely, the referents of] the word ruah/spirit). The bibliography is too brief for a book on the whole Bible; and though McKenzie applauds the contributions made by scholars during the past twenty years, few of those works appear. Severatlongitudinal weaknesses characterize the work. The endeavor to discuss the whole Bible is ambitious; but in this era graced or cursed by an explosion of infonnation, it is reckless for most scholars to undertake discussion of so diverse a set of books as the Bible. Second, one who does embark on such a quest must engage the latest scholarship, both methodological and text-specific. McKenzie fails on both scores. Third, though she claims not to be "excessively religious" (p. vii-a position she seems to identify with the denial that the material was "given" by a deity)-rather to be detached (though recognizing subjectivity too!), she also indicates that she has endeavored to set her thinking into the times of the Hebrews and early Christians. Recent methodology has raised some serious questions about claims to detachment, and surely even more, efforts to situate ourselves mentally with other people; her frequent reference to groups of people like "the Hebrews" as though they were simple to characterize in Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 208 Reviews time and viewpoint seems dubious in the extreme. Feminist theory is, similarly , complex rather than simple. Work done under its rubrics usually clarifies what its strategy will be and proceeds in an appropriate way. The description that suits McKenzie's work is "rehabilitation," a stance signaling scholarly presumption that the main issues are with the handlers of the texts (editors, translators, readers and the like) and that problems can be fairly easily identified and remediated. A number of feminist biblical scholars may once have held that view, but most do not currently fmd gender issues (contemporary or ancient) nearly so simple. Feminist biblical criticism resembles virtually the whole spectrum of its counterparts in other disciplines. The individual chapters are of mixed quality. There is a consistent effort to present matters with clarity; but a concomitant oversimplification also attends. A few samples will demonstrate both features of the work. Charts of dates for settings and composition of biblical books serve as ballast for the observation that a good deal of "feminine, pro-woman material " (pp. 10-12) has been omitted from Protestant and Jewish canons. In the first place, dating of "early" material is fraught with peril these days, and assertions need some justification; but more serious, perhaps, is the non-discussion of how to decide what is pro-woman. Among books omitted are Wisdom of Solomon, Judith, and the Susanna story from Daniel. There is excellent debate among scholars on the evaluation of those materials; that they mention women with approval does...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 207-209
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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