Feminist Hermeneutics at Worcester

Just over a week ago we held a small gathering of OT scholars in Worcester (UK) to discuss the issues raised for evangelicals by feminist hermeneutics. Scholars from New Zealand, Australia, USA, and the UK gathered to discuss papers that had been circulated in advance on biblical texts that have generated considerable comment from feminist interpreters:

creation and fall (Gen 1—3)
The rape of Dinah (Gen 34)
Miriam, the daughters of Zelophehad, and the sotah text (Numbers)
Deuteronomic laws concerning sex (Deut)
the Levite's concubine (Judg 19-21)
the rape of Tamar (2 Sam 13)
Ezekiel 16 and 23 (and the issue of "porno-prophesy")
The Song of Songs

as well as a couple of papers on the biblical metanarrative and hermeneutics.

It was a very small but a truly groundbreaking event.

The amazing fact is that whilst feminist hermeneutics has been a major part of academic biblical OT study for a fair few years now, a literature search of books and articles by evangelicals reveals an almost total absence of engagement with such feminist scholarship!

Hard as it is to believe, evangelicals have almost completely ignored the challenge posed by feminist hermeneutics!!!

(Yes - I know that we evangelicals could fill the British Library with all the books and articles they have written on 1 Tim 2 or 1 Cor 11 but these are very intra-evangelical discussions and we have ignored the vast bulk of feminist scholarship—especially on the OT).

So our plan was to make a very small gesture towards changing that. Our discussions marked a small start but one has to start somewhere and we hope that others will follow and take the engagement further on. Constructive dialogue was our risky model.

We came to no consensus but we all agreed that an open and fruitful dialogue between evangelical and feminist hermeneutics was not only possible but critical.

Call me a wooley liberal feminist if you like—I don't give a stuff. I know I am a real man because I piss standing up (see post below) ... except at night ... and that's because it is dark.

The papers will be published as a book by Wipf and Stock (title to be decided).


Terry Wright said…
Can't you turn the light on at night, Robin?

Seriously, this sounds fruitful. In particular, Judges 19 has long fascinated me, so I'll look forward to reading whatever's written on this text.
Anonymous said…
if you turn the light on, it only wakes you up more, and then you can't get back to sleep.

but see what Robin says ...

and this is a very valuable project, a dialogue with feminism. good plan!
James Goetz said…
Hmm, for some reason, "feminist theology" sounds more objective to me compared to "feminist hermeneutics."

I also have a question. Would feminist hermeneutics differ much from egalitarian hermeneutics?
Robin Parry said…

feminist theology is a different project from feminist hermeneutics (the latter concerns biblical interpretation rather than theological construction).

Feminist herm is concerned with gender issues whilst egalitarian hermeneutics is wider-ranging. Perhaps Fem Herm is a subset of Egal Herm.
James Goetz said…
Hmm, I look a hermeneutics being driven by the biblical genre. And I'm all for hermeneutics looking past the male dominance in the ancient context of biblical days while interpreting that the Bible didn't teach male dominance as an eternal principles.

Would feminist hermeneutics be hermeneutics focusing on biblical passages related to feminism or is it something more than that?

Well, I hope that the book will include a good one paragraph answer to my question.
James Goetz said…
Ugh, a typo: "Hmm, I look [at] hermeneutics being driven by the biblical genre."
revbidski said…
Interesting that I see only chaps commenting? Btw how many of these erudite scholars were women?
Revbidski said…
Interesting that only chaps are posting? Btw how many of these erudite scholars were women?
Robin Parry said…

It is. I think that says something about evangelicalism; its leaders and scholars are largely men. That is changing but nowhere near fast enough. (Just take a trip to ETS in the USA and one is lost in a sea of male faces.)

So we had major problems finding evangelical women that were Old Testament scholars and wanted to address the issue of feminist hermeneutics. (Actually, we had problems finding evangelical male scholars that wanted to either but that's another story).

So in Worcester we had two women out of eight scholars. 25%. Hardly ideal but a start.

The hope is that the book itself may play some small role in encouraging more evangelical women to get involved in OT studies and grasp the nettle. We'll see.

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