Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Authority (Part 4)

Continued from: Feminist Theology or go to Table of Contents


Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza has been a leading advocate of a hermeneutical approach that incorporates a “dual emphasis on deconstruction and reconstruction.”[1] This process necessitates delving into what is ambiguously stated, omitted from or is inferred in a passage, as well as what is said.  It calls into question the patriarchal formulation of orthodoxy, including the process of rejecting other ancient works in the development of the canon, as part and parcel of the church’s historical approach to marginalizing women.

Rather than simply seeking to “articulate a different reading … that recuperates the authority of the androcentric canonical text”[2], this approach tries to uncover and analyze the contexts within which oral traditions, written accounts and interpretations occurred in the past and encourages re-imagining the meaning of the texts in the context of the contemporary reader. Authority is stripped away from the historical traditions underlying scripture and theology and lodged firmly in the experience and perspective of the current recipient.

Feminist theology and hermeneutics has not been without its own biases, besides the obvious and necessary granting of authority to women’s voices. Contextualization, a concept integral to both of the first two approaches, has challenged feminist theology to examine its own work to see where cultural, socio-economic and racial preconceptions or prejudices have affected the outcome. The Jewish prophets and the early church had radical impact in their environments and a contextualized church reacts to the Gospel in terms of its own culture and has the same impact in its society. As Mercy Amba Oduyoye states, “[ethnic] women want to join in the search for truth about human life … to decide for ourselves what constitutes a liberating and liberative life.”[3] 

Strategic hermeneutics, when applied to scripture, brings to bear secular interests that require integrating feminist theology with gender-neutral and non-religious scholarship. Rather than a redemptive use of text, which presupposes a diminished state from which to be freed, this view seeks to strategically use what is gleaned to seek out how scriptural texts can, in the words of Elizabeth Castelli, “help us to think about theory, power, solidarity and resistance … which dominate thinking today.”[4]

Continued: Genesis 1:26-28

Or Return to Table of Contents

[1] Moore, 56 ff.

[2] Fiorenza, 1993, 11.

[3] Oduyoye, Mercy Amba. 1995. Daughters of Anowa – African Women and Patriarchy. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books), 5.

[4] Moore, 60.

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... or, preaching from both ends


That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

Readers since Jan 2009

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