Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 8 (2008) - Review
In a lengthy introduction (pp. ix-xxvii) the editors of this volume describe their dual purpose: to honor Katharine Doob Sakenfeld and to provide an introductory text on feminist biblical interpretation. A textbook, they propose, is the best tribute to Sakenfeld, who is a master teacher. In addition to a brief description of feminist interpretation, the introduction includes material on the social location of the authors and their methods, as well as observations on issues of justice and language.
The first essay, labeled as Overview is The Feminist Movement Meets the Old Testament: One Woman's Perspective by Kathleen M. O'Connor (pp. 3-24), in which she uses the story of Elisha and the widow (2 Kgs 4:1-7) as a lens to view the rise of feminist movement and its effect on biblical scholarship. Her list of problems for feminists reading the Bible is painfully perceptive, but her essay ends on a note of hope with a description of the contributions of many feminist scholars and the challenges that remain.
The following essays appear in Part One: Perspectives: Communication as Communion: Elements in a Hermeneutic of Lo Contidiano by Ada María Isasi-Díaz (pp. 27-36); Womanist Biblical Interpretation by Nyasha Junior (pp. 37-46); Reading Ruth 3:1-5 from an Asian Woman's Perspective by Anna May Say Pa (pp. 47-59); My Sister Sarah: On Being a Woman in the First World by Beth LaNeel Tanner (pp. 60-72); and Untying the Knot? Masculinity, Violence, and the Creation-Fall Story of Genesis 2—4 by Dennis T. Olson (pp. 73-86). The editors have done well to include not only essays from mujerista, womanist, and Asian perspectives, but also essays concerning the cultural challenges for white women (Tanner) and men (Olson) doing feminist interpretation.
In Part Two: Texts, the essays are; Ruth the Moabite: Identity, Kinship, and Otherness by Eunny P. Lee (pp. 89-101); Seeing the Older Woman: Naomi in High Definition by Jacqueline Lapsley (pp. 102-13); Wisdom and the Feminine in the Hebrew Bible by Linda Day (pp. 114-27); 'I am Black and Beautiful: The Song, Cixous, and Écriture Féminine by F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp (pp. 128-40); and Job's Wife by C. L. Seow (pp. 141-50). Lapsley uses the puzzling picture that can appear either as a beautiful young girl or an old crone, to refocus the reader's view of the two female characters in the book of Ruth. She wonders if Ruth gets most of the attention because she is a young silent sufferer. This renders the old complaining Naomi, whom she compares to Job, virtually invisible. Dobbs-Allsopp invites the reader to look again at Job's wife, through interpretations of her story both positive and negative in art and literature.
In Part Three: Issues, the essays are: Image and Imagination: Why Inclusive Language Matters by Christie Cozad Neuger (pp. 153-65); Rupturing God-Language: The Metaphor of God as Midwife in Psalm 22 by L. Juliana M. Claassens (pp. 166-75); Yahweh's Significant Other by J. J. M. Roberts and Kathryn L. Roberts (pp. 176-85); Women, Violence, and the Bible by Nancy R. Bowen (pp. 186-99); and The ‘Biblical View' of Marriage by Carolyn Pressler (pp. 200-11). Neuger's essay on inclusive language is particularly helpful for those who struggle against idolatry, kyriarchy, and injustice in our communal prayer.
In Part Four: Intersections, the essays are: Feminist Interpretation and Biblical Theology by Phyllis A. Bird (pp. 215-26); Feminist Interpretation for the Laity by Freda A. Gardner (pp. 227-37); and What I Have Learned from My Sisters by Patrick D. Miller (pp. 238-52). The book ends with a short essay, The Accomplishments of Katharine Doob Sakenfeld by Sarah Zhang (pp. 253-54) and a bibliography of Sakenfeld's works.
I have highlighted only a few of the essays in this excellent collection. All the essays are well crafted for the intended audience. The authors discuss significant issues in feminist biblical interpretation and highlight important resources. Each essay lists four or five works for further study. At the same time, the style is clear, without technical jargon or esoteric arguments. This book is useful not only for students, however. The wealth of material packed into this small volume will make it a handy resource for scholars and teachers as well. The book is a worthy tribute to a great scholar-teacher.