Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 8 (2008) - Review

Linda Day, Carolyn Pressler, eds., Engaging the Bible in a Gendered World: An Introduction to Feminist Biblical Interpretation in Honor of Katharine Doob Sakenfeld (Louisville/London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006). Pp. xxvii + 260. Paper US$29.95. ISBN 0-664-22910-7.

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.

Irene Nowell, OSB, Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, KS 66002