In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

  • Introduction
  • Journals and Book Series
  • Reference Works and Research Tools
  • Commentaries
  • Queer Readings and Theory
  • Cultural Studies

Biblical Studies Women, Gender, and Sexuality in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Hilary Lipka
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0246


There was relatively little scholarship focusing on women, gender, and sexuality in the Hebrew Bible until the 1970s, when modern feminist biblical scholarship first started to emerge as an outgrowth of second-wave feminism. In the 1980s, feminist biblical criticism fully blossomed as a discipline, inspiring a large body of work focusing on issues such as the depiction, treatment, and roles of women, the interrelationship between gender and power, and views toward women’s sexuality in biblical texts, and what can be discerned about various aspects of the lives of women in ancient Israel based on biblical and other evidence. In the past few decades, as the body of scholarship on women in the Bible has continued to grow, it has also broadened its scope as new methodologies and hermeneutical approaches have been introduced. Inspired in part by the rise of third wave feminism in the 1990s, there has also been an increasing amount of scholarship focusing on the intersection of race, class, and ethnicity with gender and sexuality in biblical texts, and an increasing awareness of the need to include more voices from the “two-thirds” world in the scholarly dialogue. In addition to being subjects covered by those engaging in feminist criticism, gender and sexuality studies both emerged as discrete fields in the 1980s, as biblical scholars, building upon the methodological foundation established by theorists such as Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault, began to examine the social, cultural, and historical construction of gender and sexuality in biblical texts. The last few decades have seen a flourishing of scholarship on gender and sexuality in the Bible that continues to both build on these foundations and go beyond them, as scholars incorporate new approaches and methodologies from the areas of gender theory, queer studies, masculinities studies, and, most recently, intersex studies into their work, offering innovative and incisive readings that shed a vivid new light on seemingly familiar biblical texts.

General Overviews

Given the wealth of knowledge that has been gained through scholarship that has considered biblical attitudes toward women, gender, and sexuality within the larger sociocultural milieu of the ancient Near East, this article will often bring in works that look at ancient Israel within its larger geographic and cultural context. Additionally, there is a large body of scholarship that has focused on Israel’s ancient Near Eastern neighbors. The sources on women, gender, sex, and sexuality in the ancient Near East included in this section consist of a mix of general overviews, anthologies of primary sources in translation, and works that focus on specific topics. There are also several works that provide excellent overviews on women, gender, sex, and sexuality in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, any of which could serve as a fine introduction for those new to these subject areas.

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