- Feminist Frameworks and the Bible. Power, Ambiguity and Intersectionality. Edited by L. Juliana Claasens and Carolyn J. Sharp. Library of Hebrew/Old Testament Studies, volume 630. London, New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark.
ISBN: HB: 978-0-5676-7157-8
Feminist Frameworks and the Bible is an edition that contains a collection of essays written by various scholars. As the title indicates, the biblical texts in this volume are read through very specific lenses, namely feminist lenses including all its various shades. The subtitle, Power, Ambiguity and Intersectionality reflects the three main subsections of the book according to which the contributions are grouped, although these themes often overlap in the essays themselves. L. Juliana Claasens and Carolyn J. Sharp, the editors, as well as the rest of the authors who contributed to this volume, are well-known scholars in feminist circles and come from various countries: from the United States, Germany, New Zealand, Botswana, Nigeria and South Africa. Therefore diverse perspectives and unique approaches may be expected: everyone speaks in her own unique voice. The book itself consists of thirteen chapters, and besides the three main divisions there are two more parts. To discuss every contribution individually would be either far too long or very superficial, therefore the rest of the review will be in line with Elna Mouton’s observation in the postscript: despite the many and diverse voices, there are remarkable analogies among them.
All essays have a very personal approach, starting with a personal story or a personal experience. Authors are intensely aware of their own environment and influences – sometimes from other disciplines such as philosophy – that affect the ways in which they analyze the text. The historical context of the biblical text is often taken into account, but not explored in the traditional historical critical way. Furthermore, all essays express concern about oppressive circumstances that strip humans from their dignity and prevent them from living and enjoying life in its fullness, that promote an unjust society, and that cause harm to the environment, namely the natural world like animals and nature. Mention is often made about the ‘Other’ and ‘Othering’ who are usually women, but also those who are marginalized by society and have no power to resist oppressive and humiliating structures. But there are also essays that refer to texts where courageous women dare to take risks and challenge the dominant patriarchal structures of their time.
A common reading strategy is a ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ which deconstructs the hidden ideologies of oppression the the text. This becomes evident especially in postcolonial studies that critique and analyze power structures, oppressive attitudes and the effect of imperialistic regimes on colonized people. Division and separation in terms of categories of race, gender and class that result in the stereotyping and sexual abuse of especially black and coloured women are exposed. The aim seems to be working towards a just society that values equality, dignity of all, and harmony between humans and humans and nature.
One can thus conclude that all contributions in this volume with its many voices, harmonize in a song that cries out for the creation of communities of care, compassion and respect, not only for humanity but all of creation. Despite the personal approach of the authors, all essays attest to thorough research which can be seen in the many endnotes that contain bibliographical references and other remarks. The volume complies with high academic standards, and a feminist reading of biblical texts should certainly be taken notice of by all exegetes, regardless of their own method of exegesis. Feminist Frameworks and the Bible is to be highly recommended.