BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Feminist Bible Interpretation

Jane Schaberg discusses whether Bible scholarship can have a feminist bias

Feminist Bible Interpretation

Bible scholar and self-described feminist Jane Schaberg considers the possibility of a feminist bias in Bible scholarship.

When tackling the issue of possible feminist bias in Bible scholarship—specifically on the part of those choosing to adopt a feminist Bible interpretation—Biblical scholar Jane Schaberg first addresses what each of the words in the phrase “feminist bias” means. As she defines them, the word “bias,” which comes from a sewing term, refers to a specific angle of vision, and “feminist” describes “someone who participates in the worldwide social change movement toward empowerment for wo/men [women and non-elite men].” In this sense, Jane Schaberg says, there is indeed an intentional feminist bias, or angle of vision, in Bible scholarship practiced by feminists.

Acknowledging that bias can have very negative connotations, however, Schaberg responds to the presence of that kind of biased feminist Bible interpretation—against the Bible—with a “yes” and a “no.” Feminist Bible scholarship does not aim at complete objectivity, which she calls “an impossible ideal.” Instead, it “aims for fairness in assessing the texts.” Much of feminist Bible scholarship is meant to turn the old, male-dominated understanding of the Bible on its head, to reveal new insights and find new meanings about the often-marginalized wo/men in antiquity and in modern society.

While some feminists consider the Bible and its associated religions too outdated, chauvinistic and oppressive to be redeemed, many others (including Schaberg) find the Bible to be a source of valuable and sometimes surprising information about the role and experience of women, both prominent Biblical figures such as Deborah, Esther, Mary and Mary Magdalene, as well as the unnamed women in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Feminist Bible scholarship, she adds, can also include topics such as slavery, gender equality, sexuality, metaphors for God and politics.


 
Read more about Jane Schaberg’s take on feminist Bible interpretation in “Are Feminists Biased About the Bible?” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2011.

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13 Responses

  1. Adrienne says:

    Brooke i am sorry… but Jael….
    She violently killed a man and God gave her honor.

  2. Adrienne says:

    throw out*

  3. Adrienne says:

    There is no such thing as a feminist bible….
    there is no such this as a chauvinistic Bible…
    there is just … Bible.

    Once we through out all our teaching from others and just sit down and read, its amazing what comes up when u read the Bible with knowing the culture, and what was going on in those times.
    I have read my Bible
    and i don’t see this “sexism” anywhere.
    if it is there is certainly in my perspective is not consistent.

    I really AM against a feminist Bible
    Because we shouldn’t have to create new names… especially when the one we have is already making equality blatantly clear..

    I do believe though…. some words were not translated as they should have
    and by looking into some greek and hebrew I have found that…

  4. Adrienne says:

    God is against ANYONE getting HIS glory, male or female

  5. John says:

    I wonder how she will deal with the queen of heaven written about in Jeremiah 7& 44. Obviously YHWA has an issue with there being a queen getting some of HIS glory.

  6. James Oppenheimer says:

    Silly me, I thought Judaism starts with Judah, from whom it takes its name. Not that this is any more than a Name. It’s sort of like saying Washington was not born a citizen of the United States, and should not have been President.

  7. william yates says:

    dennis,judaism starts with abram,n ur of the chaldeas,mesopotamia,not n israel,so abrams GOD is before israels el

  8. william yates says:

    im a jewish christian,creationist telescope astronomy student,27 year BIBLE student,17 year intelligent design astronomy student….isaiah ch40v22 the earth is round,a circle or vault,all meaning round.mathew ch4,satan shows JESUS from a high mountain where he shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world,sometimes is used to claim Jesus believed the world was flat.mountains n the BIBLE r places of visions,satan spoke to Jesus n visions,maybe.mathew ch17,God spoke from sky v5,to eyewitnesses v1 Jesus is Gods son,listen to Jesus,recorded 12 times n new testament,by different historical writers.deuteronomy ch4ch5,God spoke from sky,to 2 million eyewitnesses,exodus ch12:37,38,,,believe n moses forever,exodus ch19:9.the earth is not at the center of the milky way.but the earth is at the center of the observable universe.in every direction it appears we r at the center of the universe.2 chronicles ch6v18,GOD is bigger than the heavens universe,ephesians ch4v10,Jesus is filling heavens,or bigger than heaven.we r close to the side of milky way.we r at the center of the universe,much bigger than milky way.earth is geocentric n universe,not in our solar system

  9. Dennis Studd says:

    A “Feminist Bible” cannot be a translation of the original; to produce a such a version requires changing the meaning of the text; at best, it can only be a 20th/21st Century interpretation, like the Talmud, which although over two thousand years old, is recognised as an interpretation and has a different name [like a modern interpretation of the Bible called “The Message”]. It therefore cannot be truly considerd as a Bible in the sense that the original is, and has about as much use as a chocolate teapot [to Christians, at least].
    In the very first verse of Genesis, elohim [God] is a masculine plural noun. That is not sexist – God is spirit has no gender – it is simply the best way that the writers could explain how they understood God: that he was both male and the most supreme God of all. According to the Bible [Isaiah], The Hebrews who started the whole thing off were from Southern Canaan, so it is quite likely that the God who they worshipped was the EL [God] of Canaan who had both a wife and a son – and therefore this first verse, which sets the scene for the whole book, cannot be not sexist.
    I will agree that translations [like the Vulgate and KJV] can have a masculine emphasis, but whatever is said, the original Bible is still three thousand years old. That cannot be changed and therefore the Bible cannot be sexist. The Bible also refers to an Earth that is both geocentric and flat, but try convincing believers of that….

  10. James Oppenheimer says:

    Too late. A Feminist bible has already been written. (at least one that I know of)
    However, I didn’t see any indication that Dr. Shaberg had that intention.
    If a book consistently espouses capitalist ideals, one is justified in saying it is a capitalist book, but, if I read the writer of the comment correctly, they would deny that option to readers of the Bible, if it consistently espouses sexist ideals — which it really does.

  11. Dennis Studd says:

    Exactly. I could not have said it better myself. The book was written about three thousand years ago (at a conservative estimate). The different culture during those times has a dramatic effect on the outcome of every story. Even in the 21st Century, cultures such as the various ‘shame’ cultures or dishonesty cultures have a different understanding to Europe or the US. For example, Islamic cultures in general tell you want they think that you want to hear, and that is not always the truth. For many it is a matter of honour. There are a number of classic anecdotal stories that clearly underline such cultural understanding; and as for the obvious differences between UK and US cultures AND language….

  12. BROOKE User says:

    Greetings,

    Before commenting on the Shaberg article, there must be a background comment to establish my premise in refuting Jane Shaberg’s position on Biblical Sexism.

    Jane Shaberg’s article, “Is the Bible Sexist?” Yes the Bible has sexism in it based on the fact that it was written during thousands of years in a Patriarchal Society and written bny men. Ms. Shabergs article illustrates that she, as well as Feminists at large, seem to have a problem with historical documents that are written from the patriarchal perspespective.

    After approximately 10,000 years of neglecting to rise up against the patriarchal social structure in the world they lived in, women finally figured out, that it would take action on their part to start making changes. Duh! The Feminist Movement starting with Susan B. Anthony, finally figured out that they needed to be emancipated. Duh! Modern women figured out that there were channels of influence for change within a male driven society, which they have alweays had, with the exception that today they can protest and implement real action against discrimination with little or no violence. Women could have forceably emancipated themselves in ancient times and some did. To name one , the violent female Amazon Warriors. Yes, husbands in some cases had/have the right to murder their wives for various infractions of patriarchal rules of behavior, but women have always had the ability to murder their husbands in their sleep. Men have been dying by the millions through wars and civil conflict to maintain their human rights and a woman’s and her children’s right to life, whatever that life was.. Freedom is never won instantly as you have to fight tyranny and dictatorship from an on going perspective. Now to comment on the premise of revaluating and intepreting an ancient concept handed down through the Oral Tradition of passing down historical philosphies and facts and then finally reduced to the written word. Biblical scriptures give enough latitude for women to understand the non-sexist message for living and dying as well as understanding their equally from the teachings of Jesus while dismissing the patriarchal tone of the writers or the patriarchal customs of the day when the scriptures were written. I believe that this Feminist approach to rewording words that are offensive to the female reader will lead to rewriting doctrinal points of truth and history on the basis of a real or supposed unfairness and lack of recognition toward one faction of humanity or another is a matter of low self esteem by the reader. The unfairness that the Feminist sees in the patriarchal influence in the scriptual text has no bearing on the truth illustrated throughout the entire Bible. Women are normally non-confrontational by nature. It is harder for women to pyschologically to assert themselves. You cannot blame men for suppressing a womans right to assert themselves. If women had the same ability to assert themselves, be aggressive and violent, inequality would never have been a factor at any time throughout history. There is no problem disagreeing with a standing written work and the written interpretations that are forth coming from any person of any sex, but DO NOT REWRITE THE HOLY BIBLE TO RAISE YOUR FEMINE POSITION IN THE WORLD BECAUSE OF LOW SELF ESTEEM.

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13 Responses

  1. Adrienne says:

    Brooke i am sorry… but Jael….
    She violently killed a man and God gave her honor.

  2. Adrienne says:

    throw out*

  3. Adrienne says:

    There is no such thing as a feminist bible….
    there is no such this as a chauvinistic Bible…
    there is just … Bible.

    Once we through out all our teaching from others and just sit down and read, its amazing what comes up when u read the Bible with knowing the culture, and what was going on in those times.
    I have read my Bible
    and i don’t see this “sexism” anywhere.
    if it is there is certainly in my perspective is not consistent.

    I really AM against a feminist Bible
    Because we shouldn’t have to create new names… especially when the one we have is already making equality blatantly clear..

    I do believe though…. some words were not translated as they should have
    and by looking into some greek and hebrew I have found that…

  4. Adrienne says:

    God is against ANYONE getting HIS glory, male or female

  5. John says:

    I wonder how she will deal with the queen of heaven written about in Jeremiah 7& 44. Obviously YHWA has an issue with there being a queen getting some of HIS glory.

  6. James Oppenheimer says:

    Silly me, I thought Judaism starts with Judah, from whom it takes its name. Not that this is any more than a Name. It’s sort of like saying Washington was not born a citizen of the United States, and should not have been President.

  7. william yates says:

    dennis,judaism starts with abram,n ur of the chaldeas,mesopotamia,not n israel,so abrams GOD is before israels el

  8. william yates says:

    im a jewish christian,creationist telescope astronomy student,27 year BIBLE student,17 year intelligent design astronomy student….isaiah ch40v22 the earth is round,a circle or vault,all meaning round.mathew ch4,satan shows JESUS from a high mountain where he shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world,sometimes is used to claim Jesus believed the world was flat.mountains n the BIBLE r places of visions,satan spoke to Jesus n visions,maybe.mathew ch17,God spoke from sky v5,to eyewitnesses v1 Jesus is Gods son,listen to Jesus,recorded 12 times n new testament,by different historical writers.deuteronomy ch4ch5,God spoke from sky,to 2 million eyewitnesses,exodus ch12:37,38,,,believe n moses forever,exodus ch19:9.the earth is not at the center of the milky way.but the earth is at the center of the observable universe.in every direction it appears we r at the center of the universe.2 chronicles ch6v18,GOD is bigger than the heavens universe,ephesians ch4v10,Jesus is filling heavens,or bigger than heaven.we r close to the side of milky way.we r at the center of the universe,much bigger than milky way.earth is geocentric n universe,not in our solar system

  9. Dennis Studd says:

    A “Feminist Bible” cannot be a translation of the original; to produce a such a version requires changing the meaning of the text; at best, it can only be a 20th/21st Century interpretation, like the Talmud, which although over two thousand years old, is recognised as an interpretation and has a different name [like a modern interpretation of the Bible called “The Message”]. It therefore cannot be truly considerd as a Bible in the sense that the original is, and has about as much use as a chocolate teapot [to Christians, at least].
    In the very first verse of Genesis, elohim [God] is a masculine plural noun. That is not sexist – God is spirit has no gender – it is simply the best way that the writers could explain how they understood God: that he was both male and the most supreme God of all. According to the Bible [Isaiah], The Hebrews who started the whole thing off were from Southern Canaan, so it is quite likely that the God who they worshipped was the EL [God] of Canaan who had both a wife and a son – and therefore this first verse, which sets the scene for the whole book, cannot be not sexist.
    I will agree that translations [like the Vulgate and KJV] can have a masculine emphasis, but whatever is said, the original Bible is still three thousand years old. That cannot be changed and therefore the Bible cannot be sexist. The Bible also refers to an Earth that is both geocentric and flat, but try convincing believers of that….

  10. James Oppenheimer says:

    Too late. A Feminist bible has already been written. (at least one that I know of)
    However, I didn’t see any indication that Dr. Shaberg had that intention.
    If a book consistently espouses capitalist ideals, one is justified in saying it is a capitalist book, but, if I read the writer of the comment correctly, they would deny that option to readers of the Bible, if it consistently espouses sexist ideals — which it really does.

  11. Dennis Studd says:

    Exactly. I could not have said it better myself. The book was written about three thousand years ago (at a conservative estimate). The different culture during those times has a dramatic effect on the outcome of every story. Even in the 21st Century, cultures such as the various ‘shame’ cultures or dishonesty cultures have a different understanding to Europe or the US. For example, Islamic cultures in general tell you want they think that you want to hear, and that is not always the truth. For many it is a matter of honour. There are a number of classic anecdotal stories that clearly underline such cultural understanding; and as for the obvious differences between UK and US cultures AND language….

  12. BROOKE User says:

    Greetings,

    Before commenting on the Shaberg article, there must be a background comment to establish my premise in refuting Jane Shaberg’s position on Biblical Sexism.

    Jane Shaberg’s article, “Is the Bible Sexist?” Yes the Bible has sexism in it based on the fact that it was written during thousands of years in a Patriarchal Society and written bny men. Ms. Shabergs article illustrates that she, as well as Feminists at large, seem to have a problem with historical documents that are written from the patriarchal perspespective.

    After approximately 10,000 years of neglecting to rise up against the patriarchal social structure in the world they lived in, women finally figured out, that it would take action on their part to start making changes. Duh! The Feminist Movement starting with Susan B. Anthony, finally figured out that they needed to be emancipated. Duh! Modern women figured out that there were channels of influence for change within a male driven society, which they have alweays had, with the exception that today they can protest and implement real action against discrimination with little or no violence. Women could have forceably emancipated themselves in ancient times and some did. To name one , the violent female Amazon Warriors. Yes, husbands in some cases had/have the right to murder their wives for various infractions of patriarchal rules of behavior, but women have always had the ability to murder their husbands in their sleep. Men have been dying by the millions through wars and civil conflict to maintain their human rights and a woman’s and her children’s right to life, whatever that life was.. Freedom is never won instantly as you have to fight tyranny and dictatorship from an on going perspective. Now to comment on the premise of revaluating and intepreting an ancient concept handed down through the Oral Tradition of passing down historical philosphies and facts and then finally reduced to the written word. Biblical scriptures give enough latitude for women to understand the non-sexist message for living and dying as well as understanding their equally from the teachings of Jesus while dismissing the patriarchal tone of the writers or the patriarchal customs of the day when the scriptures were written. I believe that this Feminist approach to rewording words that are offensive to the female reader will lead to rewriting doctrinal points of truth and history on the basis of a real or supposed unfairness and lack of recognition toward one faction of humanity or another is a matter of low self esteem by the reader. The unfairness that the Feminist sees in the patriarchal influence in the scriptual text has no bearing on the truth illustrated throughout the entire Bible. Women are normally non-confrontational by nature. It is harder for women to pyschologically to assert themselves. You cannot blame men for suppressing a womans right to assert themselves. If women had the same ability to assert themselves, be aggressive and violent, inequality would never have been a factor at any time throughout history. There is no problem disagreeing with a standing written work and the written interpretations that are forth coming from any person of any sex, but DO NOT REWRITE THE HOLY BIBLE TO RAISE YOUR FEMINE POSITION IN THE WORLD BECAUSE OF LOW SELF ESTEEM.

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