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Book Reviews 181 the Qumran scrolls. The first fascicle of their computer-generated reconstructions of unpublished Cave 4 material, released in September of 1991, was the initial step in a series of closely connected events that eventually resulted in free access to the scrolls by all interested parties. The suppression of their significance in this story, whether accidental or deliberate, is cavalier and irresponsible. John C. Reeves Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies Winthrop University Gender, Power, and Promise: The Subject of the Bible's First Story, by Danna Nolan Fewell and David M. Gunn. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993. 208 pp. $14.95 (P). This is a terrific book on a terrible topic: the role of gender in the interplay between power relations and divine promise in the Hebrew Bible. The authors ask the question of Genesis-Kings, "Who is the Subject of this text?" Their method is literary, informed by the latest trends in postmodern and feminist criticism without lapsing into jargon or obscurity. They seek to "practice reading in the defiance of the apparent disposition of the text. . . seek[ing] to assign primary subjectivity to the women of the text ... ," an impossible task (p. 2). They find that the "Subject" of the story is clearly the adult heterosexual male head of a household. They also devote considerable attention to the character of God because "unless [it] is subject to the same kind of critical scrutiny as all the other characters, we are not really reading the text.... God as male (though without a genitally-marked body!) is part and parcel of the story" (p. 19). Hence, the narrator's god is a "key manifestation of the male Subject" (p. 3), exerting a powerful force on the narrative as a symbolic authorization of the social norms and ,values of the patriarchal Subject. In such figurations, women, children, and foreigners-all those constructed as Other by the text-are the major losers. While the authors see "moments of liveliness and hope, especially through the enlivening ironies of the text," they find it ". . . most difficult to conclude that this text is not deeply prejudicial to the interests of women" (p. 20). The first four chapters concentrate on Genesis, since it is here that "an entire social world is constructed ... in which humans are valued on the basis of gender, a world in which women are subdued and the needs 182 SHOFAR Winter 1996 Vol. 14, No.2 ofchildren are suppressed in deference to adult men, ... [where] human sexuality has only one legitimate expression, and that is too often described in terms ofdomination and subjugation" (p. 38). We find a God whose favoritism conveniently overlooks the discrepancies between redemptive theory and messy practice, a God continually compromised by the biased vision of his chosen Subjects. Women and children are made pawns within the dynamic of the divine promises to the patriarchs. Foreign females come to symbolize all that is "Other," and the Israelite male must define himselfpersistently over against such women in order to be assured of his ascendancy. Further chapters deal with legal codes, the possession of the land, and the rise and fall of kingship. The authors are clearly angry as they read these texts, and rightly so. They make deft use of their own ironies in re-covering the female victims whose bodies are the playgrounds on which men inscribe their politics, only occasionally lapsing into a preachy tone. The character of God fares no better than that of his subjects in this revisioning performed without benefit of religious dogma and constraining creed: he is a jealous, abusing husband to Israel-in fact, the perfect picture of the patriarchal Subject to whom the text is addressed (pp. 109-116). While the book presents an excellent invitation to feminist literary criticism, its choice of method-a literary reading of the final form of the text-sometimes undercuts its own political interests. The scholarly consensus on the Documentary Hypothesis (multiple sources in the Torah) and the Deuteronomistic History Ooshua-Kings) may well be in tatters, but the "Univocal Premise" (one unified text with one author) adopted here is no more satisfying than the. heuristic models of textual composition which preceded...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 181-184
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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