One of the challenges for many readers of the Bible is that it was produced with an Ancient patriarchal culture, so therefore it tends to tell most of it’s stories of men or from men’s perspectives. And even when the stories of women are told, their stories have often been obscured, and skewed from centuries of androcentric readings. So, we are told: Eve caused the fall, Sarah’s use and rejection of Hagar is blamed for the tension in the Middle East, and we wonder just what did Ruth uncover on the threshing room floor?
In Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified and Marginalized Women of the Bible, Sandra Glahn has compiled essays from seventeen evangelicals from varying church traditions reexamining notable women of the Bible who have oft been maligned by biblical interpretation. Kregel Academic, the publisher tends to be on the conservative end of biblical scholarship. While these essays don’t speak in one voice (Glahn notes in her preface that contributors disagree on various issues including women’s preaching), they are each committed to hearing the voice of God in the marginalized, and the dialogue is respectful (while there are complementarian’s in the mix, these are soft complementarians that accept and value women’s scholarship and theological contributions). Proceeds from this book were donated to International Justice Mission.
The book is divided into three sections with an introductory essay on the “Hermeneutics of Her” by Henry Rouse. Rouse sets the table with six interpretative questions which give us a framework for wrestling through difficult biblical texts: (1) what does the text actually say? (2) What do I observe in and about the text? (3) What did the text mean to the original audience? ( 4) What was the point? (5) What truths in the text are timelessly relevant? (6) How does the parts fit the whole? (23-26). Rouse also notes the value of reexamining our interpretation of women in the text, because though we have a Great Tradition of two thousand years of biblical interpretation, that tradition is fallible. Reexamining passages with new eyes will either confirm of convictions or allow us to see with new eyes. This is a good framing essay, and obviously with far reaching implications beyond the ‘women in the Bible.’
Section 1 examines the women in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. Carolyn Custis James writes an essay on Tamar, Eva Bleeker explores the Rahab story, Marnie Legaspi describes the ‘so-called’ scandal of Ruth, and Sarah Bowler describes the victimhood of Bathsheba by David (and makes some pretty incisive observations about their significance for the way power dynamics often play out in our own age (see #metoo if you don’t know what I’m talking about). Timothy Ralston closes out this section with an impassioned essay for protestant evangelicals to recover the prominence of the Virgin Mary which the Scripture tells us about (the 4th most described figure in the New Testament).
Section II gives a survey of the sexualized and vilified and marginalized women of the Bible. Glenn Krieder defends Eve from the charge of being the ‘Mother of all seducers” (rather, both men and women share in culpability for human sinfulness). Eugene Merrill and Tony Maalouf explore the characters of Sarah and Hagar, respectfully. Ron Pierce dismantles the charge that Deborah was only called by God because ‘the men wouldn’t stand up (the narrative praises and affirms Deborah, Barak, and Jael). Christa McKirkland holds up the example of the prophet Hulda, and Sharifa Stevens describes how the virtue of courage is manifest in Queen Vashti’s refusal to the King Ahasuerus.
Finally Section III explores some new Testament images of women: The Samaritan Woman at the Well (Lynn Cohick), Mary Magdalene (Karla Zazueta) and Junia (Amy Peeler). Each of the essays in this section explore how the interpretive tradition maligned and distorted the biblical image of these women.
This is a really solid collection of essays, and not overly technical. It engages the Bible, the theological tradition and current scholarship. I appreciated the honest, yet reverent wrestling with difficult passages and the ways each author labored to recover a portrait of women in the Bible and restore it. This is really solid. I give this five stars. ★★★★★