Feminist Scholarship on the Old Testament
- LAST REVIEWED: 16 December 2022
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2020
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0020
- LAST REVIEWED: 16 December 2022
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2020
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0020
Feminist scholarship on the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible has its historical roots in various women’s movements throughout the ages, especially in the first women’s movement of the 19th century. It became a systematic academic endeavor only in the 1970s, when the second feminist movement took hold in societies in Western and Northern countries such as in the United States. It was then, in the 1970s, that feminist scholars with formal academic credentials in the fields of biblical, theological, and religious studies grounded their scholarship in the demands, challenges, and insights of the second feminist movement. This movement gained strength, prominence, and power during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and came to define itself as the continuation of the first women’s movement of the 19th century, when feminists fought for women’s suffrage, often in conjunction with the abolitionist movement. With the reemergence of feminist voices in the 1970s, after almost seventy years of silence, repression, and forgetfulness, women no longer lacked academic, intellectual, and scholarly credentials, unlike earlier generations of feminists who had faced systematic exclusion from social, political, economic, religious, and educational institutions. Now, for the first time in Western societies, feminist Hebrew Bible scholars examined, deconstructed, and reconstructed androcentric assumptions, biases, and perspectives in biblical literature and the various histories of interpretation. They used the standard scholarly tools, procedures, and methodologies practiced in the academic field of biblical studies. Importantly, feminist scholars placed women, gender, and sexualities in the center of their exegetical work. The field in the early 21st century includes feminist exegetes from around the globe who connect gender analysis with other social categories such as race, class, and geopolitical location. Since the early 1970s, then, feminist scholarship on the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible has produced new ways of thinking about, learning from, and reading the sacred texts of Christianity and Judaism and the extensive histories of interpretation.
Several introductory overviews of feminist scholarship on the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible are available. Laffey 1988 and Schottroff, et al. 1998 focus on textual interpretation, and Schüssler Fiorenza 1993–1994, Scholz 2007, and Scholz 2017 organize the field historically and thematically. Important conceptual proposals come from Fuchs 2008 and Milne 1997, while Jost 2014 offers a survey of German feminist works in biblical studies. A compilation of feminist exegetical positions can be found in Mbuwayesango and Scholz 2009. Scholz 2013, Scholz 2014, and Scholz 2016, all anthologies, review, synthesize, and evaluate the field of feminist Hebrew Bible studies. A pioneering collection of articles, Trible 1982, gives insight into the feminist exegetical circumstances in the 1970s. Bible and Culture Collective 1995, informed by postmodern assumptions, presents an accessible guide to various new methods, theories, and critical practices in biblical studies, including reader-response, structuralist, narratological, post-structuralist, rhetorical, psychoanalytic, feminist and womanist, and ideological criticism. Sherwood 2017 illustrates the current flourishing of interdisciplinary scholarship in feminist biblical studies. Koosed 2017 offers a concise outline of the field of feminist biblical studies.
Bible and Culture Collective. “Feminist and Womanist Criticism.” In The Postmodern Bible. By Bible and Culture Collective, 225–271. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.
This article presents feminist and womanist criticism as a challenge to scientific, objective epistemological claims and to essentializing discourse on “woman.” The discussion aims to define biblical interpretation as socially, politically, and institutionally located discourses about systems of domination and their critiques.
Fuchs, Esther. “Biblical Feminisms: Knowledge, Theory and Politics in the Study of Women in the Hebrew Bible.” Biblical Interpretation 16.3 (2008): 205–226.
Important theoretical discussion that proposes to understand the developments in feminist biblical studies within the paradigms of feminist studies in general. Relying on centripetal and centrifugal approaches to feminist knowledge, theory, and politics in reading the Bible, the author aims to reposition feminist biblical scholarship as “political engagement for epistemological transformation” (p. 225).
Jost, Renate. Feministische Bibelauslegungen: Grundlagen—Forschungsgeschichtliches—Geschlechterstudien. Internationale Forschungen in Feministischer Theologie und Religion 1. Münster, Germany: LIT Verlag 2014.
Written by a leading feminist Old Testament scholar in Germany, this 432-page book presents, critically interrogates, and reflects on a personal level the development of feminist biblical exegesis in the German-speaking contexts and beyond since the 1980s.
Koosed, Jennifer L. Reading the Bible as a Feminist. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017.
A brief introduction of seventy-eight pages that contextualizes feminist biblical studies within the larger feminist movement and the academy.
Laffey, Alice L. An Introduction to the Old Testament: A Feminist Perspective. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988.
This first feminist introduction adheres to “traditional” structures of the Christian canon (Pentateuch, Deuteronomistic History, major and minor prophets, writings) and comprehensively features women characters and stories.
Mbuwayesango, Dora, and Susanne Scholz. “Dialogical Beginnings: A Conversation on the Future of Feminist Biblical Studies.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 25.2 (2009): 93–143.
This “roundtable discussion,” published in the leading journal of feminism and religion, presents an innovative and future-oriented conversation among feminist biblical scholars, bridging geographic, racial, religious, and linguistic differences. The conversation took place during the 2008 Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Boston.
Milne, Pamela J. “Toward Feminist Companionship: The Future of Feminist Biblical Studies and Feminism.” In A Feminist Companion to Reading the Bible: Approaches, Methods, and Strategies. Edited by Athalya Brenner and Carole Fontaine, 39–60. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1997.
An indispensable outline of the history of feminist biblical scholarship in North America, discussion of the reasons for the ongoing marginalization of the field, and a plea for nonconfessional, feminist, biblical, scholarly discourse.
Scholz, Susanne. Introducing the Women’s Hebrew Bible. London: T & T Clark, 2007.
This book introduces the history of feminist Hebrew Bible studies, scholars, and methods; the theme of sexual violence; and the range of feminist postcolonial interpretations. Includes biographies and description of four feminist biblical scholars: Phyllis Trible, Athalya Brenner, Elsa Tamez, and Marie-Theres Wacker.
Scholz, Susanne. Introducing the Women’s Hebrew Bible: Feminism, Gender Justice, and the Study of the Old Testament. 2d ed. London: T & T Clark, 2017.
This second and expanded edition includes discussions on queer biblical hermeneutics and Christian right works, the latter illustrating the increasing success of neoliberal hermeneutics in biblical approaches to “women.”
Scholz, Susanne, ed. Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Retrospect. Vol. 1, Biblical Books. Recent Research in Biblical Studies 8. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2013.
The first anthology of the three-volume series, consisting of fourteen essays that review, synthesize, and evaluate feminist interpretations of the various Old Testament books. A few books are treated individually, such as Genesis and Song of Songs, while most are discussed in clusters such as Exodus to Deuteronomy, First and Second Samuel, and Proverbs, Job, and Qohelet.
Scholz, Susanne, ed. Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Retrospect. Vol. 2, Social Locations. Recent Research in Biblical Studies 8. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2014.
The second anthology of the three-volume series, containing fourteen contributions that review, synthesize, and evaluate feminist interpretations of various social locations. Two main parts differentiate between geographical areas, such as feminist readings from Africa and East Asia, and between various hermeneutical locations, such as those coming from lesbian, ecofeminist, and secular contexts.
Scholz, Susanne, ed. Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Retrospect. Vol. 3, Methods. Recent Research in Biblical Studies 9. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2016.
The third anthology of the three-volume series, offering nineteen essays that review, synthesize, and evaluate feminist interpretations based in various exegetical methods. The book is structured into four parts (“Prolegomena: Methods as Hermeneutical Constructs,” “Feminist Readings behind the Text,” “Feminist Readings within the Text,” “Readings Feminist in Front of the Text”) to guide readers through the plethora of feminist exegesis, as it has emerged since the 1970s.
Schottroff, Luise, Silvia Schroer, and Marie-Theres Wacker. Feminist Interpretation: The Bible in Women’s Perspective. Translated by Martin Rumscheidt and Barbara Rumscheidt. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998.
The authors systematically present the stories of women in both testaments, uncover androcentric tendencies, and highlight biblical traditions that empower women. Three areas of investigation organize the work: the historical, hermeneutical, and methodological foundations; a feminist reconstruction of the history of Israel; and a feminist reconstruction of early Christianity.
Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth, ed. Searching the Scriptures. 2 vols. New York: Crossroad, 1993–1994.
A landmark in biblical scholarship, this book includes the work of feminist scholars from around the world and combines both a hermeneutic of suspicion and a hermeneutic of revision.
Sherwood, Yvonne, ed. The Bible and Feminism: Remapping the Field. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
This anthology of thirty-six essays illustrates the current flourishing of interdisciplinary conceptualized feminist biblical studies with a special focus on the Hebrew Bible but with contributors coming teaching and researching in Hebrew Bible studies, early Christianity, or biblical studies in general, as well as in English, cultural studies, or gender studies.
Trible, Phyllis, ed. Special Issue: The Effects of Women’s Studies on Biblical Studies. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 7.22 (1982).
One of the first scholarly publications that presents the emerging work of feminist Bible professors, from the 1980 centennial meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Archaeology and Material Culture of Nabataea and the Nabat...
- Acts of Peter
- Acts of the Apostles
- Adam and Eve
- Aelia Capitolina
- Afterlife and Immortality
- Alexander the Great
- Altered States of Consciousness in the Bible
- Ancient Christianity, Churches in
- Ancient Israel, Schools in
- Ancient Medicine
- Ancient Mesopotamia, Schools in
- Ancient Near Eastern Law
- Anti-Semitism and the New Testament
- Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
- Apocryphal Acts
- Apostolic Fathers
- Archaeology and Material Culture of Ammon and the Ammonite...
- Archaeology and Material Culture of Aram and the Arameans
- Archaeology and Material Culture of Judah and the Judeans ...
- Archaeology and Material Culture of Moab and the Moabites
- Archaeology and Material Culture of Phoenicia and the Phoe...
- Archaeology and Material Culture of the Kingdom of Israel ...
- Archaeology, Greco-Roman
- Art, Early Christian
- Astrology and Astronomy
- Barnabas, Epistle of
- Bible and Visual Art
- Biblical Criticism
- Biblical Studies, Cognitive Science Approaches in
- Caesarea Maritima
- Canon, Biblical
- Child Metaphors in the New Testament
- Children in the Hebrew Bible
- Children in the New Testament World
- Christian Apocrypha
- Chronicles, First and Second
- Cities of Refuge
- Clement, First
- Clement of Alexandria
- Clement, Second
- Conversation Analysis
- Corinthians, Second
- Cosmology, Near East
- Covenant, Ark of the
- Daniel, Additions to
- Death and Burial
- Deuteronomistic History
- Diaspora in the New Testament
- Divination and Omens
- Domestic Architecture, Ancient Israel
- Early Christianity
- Economics and Biblical Studies
- Education, Greco-Roman
- Education in the Hebrew Bible
- Election in the Bible
- Epistles, Catholic
- Epistolography (Ancient Letters)
- Esther and Additions to Esther
- Evil Eye
- Exodus, Book of
- Faith in the New Testament
- Feminist Scholarship on the Old Testament
- Flora and Fauna of the Hebrew Bible
- Food and Food Production
- Friendship, Kinship and Enmity
- Funerary Rites and Practices, Greco-Roman
- Genesis, Book of
- God, Ancient Israel
- God, Greco-Roman
- God, Son of
- Gospels, Apocryphal
- Great, Herod the
- Greco-Roman World, Associations in the
- Greek Language
- Hebrew Bible, Biblical Law in the
- Hebrew Language
- Hellenistic and Roman Egypt
- Hermas, Shepherd of
- Historiography, Greco-Roman
- Holy Spirit
- Honor and Shame
- Hosea, Book of
- Idol/Idolatry (HB/OT)
- Idol/Idolatry (New Testament)
- Imperial Cult and Early Christianity
- Infancy Gospel of Thomas
- Interpretation and Hermeneutics
- Israel, History of
- Jesus of Nazareth
- Jewish Christianity
- Jewish Festivals
- Joel, Book of
- John, Gospel of
- John the Baptist
- Jubilees, Book of
- Judaism, Hellenistic
- Judaism, Rabbinic
- Judaism, Second Temple
- Judas, Gospel of
- Jude, Epistle of
- Judges, Book of
- Judith, Book of
- Kings, First and Second
- Letters, Johannine
- Letters, Pauline
- Levirate Obligation in the Hebrew Bible
- Levitical Cities
- LGBTIQ Hermeneutics
- Literacy, New Testament
- Literature, Apocalyptic
- Lord’s Prayer
- Luke, Gospel of
- Maccabean Revolt
- Maccabees, First–Fourth
- Man, Son of
- Manasseh, King of Judah
- Manasseh, Tribe/Territory
- Mark, Gospel of
- Matthew, Gospel of
- Medieval Biblical Interpretation (Jewish)
- Midrash and Aggadah
- Minoritized Criticism of the New Testament
- Miracle Stories
- Modern Bible Translations
- Mysticism in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity
- Myth in the Hebrew Bible
- Nahum, Book of
- New Testament and Early Christianity, Women, Gender, and S...
- New Testament, Feminist Scholarship on the
- New Testament, Men and Masculinity in the
- New Testament, Rhetoric of the
- New Testament, Social Sciences and the
- New Testament Studies, Emerging Approaches in
- New Testament, Textual Criticism of the
- New Testament Views of Torah
- Numbers, Book of
- Nuzi (Nuzi Tablets)
- Old Testament, Biblical Theology in the
- Old Testament, Social Sciences and the
- Orality and Literacy
- Passion Narratives
- Pauline Chronology
- Paul's Opponents
- Performance Criticism
- Period, The "Persian"
- Philo of Alexandria
- Piety/Godliness in Early Christianity and the Roman World
- Poetry, Hebrew
- Pontius Pilate
- Priestly/Holiness Codes
- Pseudepigraphy, Early Christian
- Qumran/Dead Sea Scrolls
- Race, Ethnicity and the Gospels
- Revelation (Apocalypse)
- Samuel, First and Second
- Second Baruch
- Sects, Jewish
- Sermon on the Mount
- Sexual Violence and the Hebrew Bible
- Sin (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament)
- Solomon, Wisdom of
- Song of Songs
- Succession Narrative
- Synoptic Problem
- Tales, Court
- Temples and Sanctuaries
- Temples, Near Eastern
- Ten Commandments
- The Bible and the American Civil War
- The Bible in China
- the Dead, Egyptian Book of
- the Hebrew Bible, Ancient Egypt and
- Thomas, Gospel of
- Trauma and the Bible, Hermeneutics of
- Twelve Prophets, Book of the
- Virtues and Vices: New Testament Ethical Exhortation in I...
- War, New Testament
- Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testa...
- Worship in the New Testament and Earliest Christianity
- Worship, Old Testament
- Zoology (Animals in the New Testament)