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Feminism

Introduction:

This is one of the most destructive false ideologies to enter the church. There are far too many women in the church adopting this way of life and disrupt the family, disrupt the unity of the church and teach the children the wrong ideas about life, women and their roles.

Feminism in any form is anti-biblical and goes contrary to biblical teaching. It is not of God even though many of its adherents claim to be Christian and spout bible verses to enhance their alternative views.

One of the problems with this ideology is that they claim that the ‘orthodox’ and ‘patriarchal’ members of the church changed God and the Bible enabling them to oppress women but there is no historical, archaeological or spiritual support for this position. Yet that does not stop these people from changing God and the Bible to fit their feminist views.

What follows are excerpts from different works providing some insight into this false ideology.
 
 

#1. Thomas Nelson, I. (1995). The Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

  FEMINISM: A SOCIAL IDEOLOGY

  Feminism is somewhat difficult to define, for the term means different things to different people. Some who call themselves feminists are merely interested in promoting the dignity and worth of women. Others seek to promote a specific socio-political ideology that goes far beyond this. Feminists raise many valid concerns: the verbal and physical abuse of women, the degradation of women through pornography, and the attitude that women are of less worth or value than men.

  Feminist philosophers propose that the solution to these problems lies in women’s claiming the right to “name” or decree meaning for themselves. They encourage women to decide who they are, what the world should be like, or who or what God is. Scripture stands against this solution. The Bible teaches that God—and God alone—has the right to define these things. God made the earth and created man and woman, and He has determined who they are and how they should live (Is. 45:10–13; Rom. 9:20, 21).

  Women are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27); therefore, they ought to be treated with the same dignity and respect as men. The Bible does describe, however, basic differences between men and women that are to be honored as part of God’s design (1 Cor. 11:3–16). The Bible does not support the degradation or abuse of women. At the same time, it does not support the right of women (or men) to put themselves above God’s plan and do as they please. Christians need to respond to the real problems that feminists identify, but they must do so without compromising the plan for male and female that God has revealed in His Word.
 
 

#2. Shanks, H. (Ed.). (2004). BR 08:05.

Feminist Interpretations of the Bible: Then and Now

The Bible has frequently been used as a weapon to oppress women

By Pamela J. Milne

Feminism—and the movement arising from it—may be the most important revolutionary development in human history. It seeks nothing less than the true equality of women. Some have compared the feminist movement to the Copernican revolution: Like the Copernican revolution, the feminist movement has already changed the way we view and understand the world.1 We almost forget that so many things we take for granted—like women’s right to vote or to get an education—were won only after a long struggle by many women and a few men committed to the belief that women are entitled to full equality with men.

Feminism is multifaceted and diverse. It has been called a movement, a political theory, an outlook, a worldview and a philosophy. Today its influence can be seen everywhere: in feminist legal theory, in feminist medical practice and in feminist approaches to science. Perhaps we should talk about feminisms to emphasize the range and diversity within the feminist movement. One central aspect, however connects the multiple visions of feminism: It is a response to women’s concrete experience of oppression in a male-dominated world. The goal of all feminisms is, ultimately, to change the world, to make it a place in which women are fully equal to men—legally, economically, politically and socially.

Not surprisingly, religion has also been the subject of considerable feminist attention. Most major religions are perceived as playing an important role in defining women as inferior and in sanctioning the oppression of women by men.

For women, undermining these scriptural “proofs” of male superiority was essential because the Bible was such an authoritative document. Thus the earliest feminist biblical criticism (or feminist hermeneutics) in America began in the 1800s in the context of the suffrage movement.3

Some 19th-century American feminists like Lucy Stone were unwilling to accept biblical injunctions that wives had to be submissive to their husbands, but they were also unable to abandon the Bible and biblical tradition. Stone was determined to attend college to study Hebrew and Greek so she could learn for herself whether or not the men who had translated the Bible had distorted the text. In 1843 she went to Oberlin College in Ohio, the first American college to admit women along with men. There she formed a deep friendship with Antoinette Brown, the first woman to be ordained a minister in the United States.

One feminist strategy countered negative feminine images with positive ones. When opponents of women’s rights appealed to Eve, Jezebel and Paul’s attitude toward women, feminists appealed to other texts that reflected the equality of men and women, for example, Joe 2:28 (“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,” quoted in Acts 2:17–18); Romans 16:7 (a reference to Junia, a woman, as a prominent apostle imprisoned with Paul) and especially Galatians 3:28 (“There is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”). They pointed to biblical characters like Miriam, Deborah, Jael, Huldah, Phoebe and Priscilla, as well as to Jesus’ own attitude toward women.

A second feminist strategy was to identify the perceptual bias of all-male biblical interpretation and to emphasize the need for women to be trained in biblical languages and criticism, to become actively involved in biblical interpretation. From this would come feminist reinterpretations of the very texts that had been used against women by the opponents of women’s equality. The most important of the texts needing reinterpretation was, of course, the Adam/Eve story in Genesis 2–3.

Not all feminists agreed that the Bible, even if properly reinterpreted, would support women’s demand for equality. Some, such as Matilda Joslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, contended that religious anti-feminism went much deeper than simple sexist interpretation of the Bible.
 
 

#3. Shanks, H. (Ed.). (2004). BR 08:05.

If The Bible’s So Patriarchal, How Come I Love It? By Phyllis Trible

Can women serve two authorities, a master called Scripture and a mistress called feminism?

The Bible was born and bred in a land of patriarchy; it abounds in male imagery and language. For centuries, interpreters have exploited this androcentrism to articulate theology; to define the church, synagogue and academy; and to instruct human beings, female and male, in who they are, what roles they should play and how they should behave. So harmonious has seemed this association of scripture with sexism, of faith with culture, that few have ever questioned it. Understandably, then, when feminism turns attention to the Bible, it first of all names patriarchy.

Evidence abounds for the subordination, inferiority and abuse of women. One has no difficulty in making this case against the Bible, it is the sine qua non of all feminist readings

Yet this recognition has led to different conclusions. Some people renounce Scripture as hopelessly misogynous, a woman-hating document with no health in it. Some reprehensibly use the patriarchal data to support anti-Semitic sentiments. They maintain that ascendancy of the male god YHWH* demolished a historic (or prehistoric) era of good goddess worship. A Christian variety of this view holds that whereas the “Old” Testament falters badly, the “New” Testament brings improved revelation. Other individuals consider the Bible to be an historical document devoid of continuing authority and hence worthy of dismissal. The “who cares?” question often comes at this point. In contrast, others despair about the ever-present male power that the Bible and its commentators promote. And still others, unwilling to let the case against women be the determining word, insist that text and interpreter provide a more excellent way. Thereby they seek to redeem the past (an ancient document) and the present (its continuing use) from the confines of patriarchy.

Reinterpretation characterizes this hermeneutic. It recognizes the polyvalency of the text but does not make the Bible say anything one wants. Between a single meaning and unlimited meanings lies a spectrum of legitimate readings. Some assert themselves forcibly; others have to be teased out. Reinterpretation also recognizes diversity. Despite attempts at harmonization by ancient redactors and modern critics, the Bible remains full of conflicts and contradictions. It resists the captivity of any one perspective. Even the winners who prevail bear witness to the losers. Understanding that every culture contains a counterculture, feminism seeks these other voices in Scripture. Reinterpretation exploits diversity and plurality.

Interpreting the Bible with a feminist hermeneutic does not mean, however, that every text turns out to be non-patriarchal, or at least less so. In some cases, analysis shows how much more patriarchal a passage is. The challenge to redeem Scripture must then be met differently from my handling of the creation account. Texts of Terror illustrates this procedure.2 It focuses on Hagar, Tamar, an unnamed woman and the unnamed daughter of Jephthah. Throughout history they have received scant attention. While the establishment prefers to forget its use and abuse of women, feminism wrestles with the meaning of it all. To accord these stories happy endings would be preposterous; yet to succumb to their suffering would be destructive. The demanding task is to retell them on behalf of the victims. In undertaking this project, I have endeavored not just to expose misogyny and certainly not to perpetuate crime but rather to appropriate the past in a dialectic of redemption. Reinterpretation remembers in order not to repeat. Its memorial calls for repentance.
 
 

#4. Feminism And Its Occult Connections Wimmin, Wiccans, And Goddess Worship  by Allan Turner

In a MS. magazine article, Karen Linsey, who rejects the God revealed in the Bible and who has, herself, dabbled in witchcraft, wrote:  

    The Feminist spirituality movement began to emerge in the mid-1970s and has become one of the largest submovements within feminism. It's amorphous, blending radical feminism, pacifism, witchcraft, Eastern mysticism, goddess worship, animism, psychic healing and a variety of practices normally associated with the occult.2

In my library, I have an audio cassette entitled “Rebirth of the Goddess,” which consists of a talk by the prominent witch Starhawk (born Mariam Simos in Duluth, Minnesota) given on June 22, 1981 at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Starhawk teaches that the Goddess is a “life force that's immanent” (i.e., that dwells in all living creatures—male and female, human, animal, and plant). According to Starhawk, witchcraft is important to feminists because it represents the rejection of the authority that comes from a patriarchal God. Witchcraft, according to Starhawk, teaches women to listen to the goddess (life force) within. The God of the Bible, according to Starhawk, is an invention of chauvinistic males who sought to destroy the position, influence, and power of women in society. Starhawk's talk was followed by a question and answer session after which most of those present joined in a “spiral dance” and “chanting circle” to celebrate “the Goddess within.”   

On Sunday morning, in the tax-supported student union building, three worship services were conducted: an ecumenical communion service conducted by a woman minister, a feminist communion service, and a Wiccan (witchcraft) ritual conducted by two witches. What all the participants of these services seemed to have had in common was their determination to worship a female deity.  

Between workshops, those in attendance could browse at a variety of booths and displays. There were tee shirts and bumper stickers bearing the slogans “I [love] the Goddess” and “Ankh If You Love Isis.” There were sample copies of Of A Like Mind, a newspaper published by a Wiccan network headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. Prominent among the books it recommended as “must” reading were Starhawk's Dreaming The Dark and The Spiral Dance. There was also Circle Network News, an occult/Wiccan publication from Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, and an accompanying Circle Catalogue advertising buttons with such messages as “NOT saved,” and “Nothing Says Lovin' Like Somethin' From the Coven.”  

According to Elinor Lenz and Barbara Myerhoff, co-authors of an interesting and informative book entitled The Feminization of America:  

    The cult of the Goddess is a dominant motif in the recovery of women's religious roots. The Great Mother Goddess was for many centuries the chief deity of the ancient world throughout western Asia and Asia Minor. She was worshipped by many different peoples and by many different names: Ishtar by the Babylonians; Asherah and Astarte by the Canaanites, Hebrews, and Phoenicians; Isis by the Egyptians; Cybele by the Phrygians; Anahita by the Persians... As the goddess of fertility she held in her possession the potent, creative power of the universe. As the embodiment of the archetypal Feminine, she combined within her being both positive and negative aspects.

    ...the ancient female religions present a striking contrast to established Christianity: in the female theology, nature is sacred; time is circular; body and spirit are one; original sin is absent; THE INDIVIDUAL'S WILL IS EQUAL TO THE GOD'S; play, humor, and sexuality have an important place in rituals; and pleasure is a positive force, not a sin (emphasis mine, AT).5

One would certainly be hard-pressed not to see the connection between Satan's Edenic lie (i.e., “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil”) and the modern-day Feminist Spirituality movement. As a matter of fact, the Genesis account of Eve's seduction remains the best explicator of Feminism. As one anti-feminist female points out, “We may not see a snake wound around a tree and a mesmerized young woman, but Satan speaks as of old to plant his anti-Word values in us...”6  

Many modern feminists are dedicated to destroying patriarchy along with all its perceived “injustices” and “inequalities.” According to feminists, patriarchy is an interloper in the so-called Golden Age of Feminism: an age in which feminine qualities were predominant and the Mother Goddess was worshipped. This period, according to these radical feminists, was a wonderfully “egalitarian, decentralized, inventive and peaceful [one], without evidence of human or animal sacrifice or weapons of war.”7 In connection with such grandiose claims, it is only correct to note that these modern-day witches talk a lot about “being free to create [their] own myths.” Consequently, it should not surprise us to learn that this so-called Golden Age of Feminism never really existed. In fact, anthropologist Margaret Murray, who, in 1921, was the first to set forth the idea that witchcraft was the remnant of an old and extensive pagan fertility religion of Western Europe, has been accused by men like E.O. James and Geoffrey Parrinder of overstating her case.8 There is not enough evidence, they suggest, to state that a clearly defined witch sect existed in Europe, in a continuous form, in the early centuries of the Christian era.9   

Furthermore, the patriarchy modern feminists are attempting to destroy is not the social by-product of an evil society of men who sought to subjugate women. To the contrary, patriarchy, despite all its undeniable abuses by imperfect and sinful human beings, is a part of the ordering of God and is designed for the nurturing and protection of feminine attributes and qualities. In a true, God-ordained patriarchy the woman is loved, honored, and respected. In such an environment, truly feminine qualities flourish.  

According to initiates, Wicca, another word for Witchcraft, is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to bend or shape.” Witchcraft, according to the witch, is a way of bending or shaping reality, by means of “magick,” which is defined by Starhawk as “the art of changing consciousness at will.” In turn, a changed consciousness creates a changed reality. This explains why, when Susan Saxe, a former member of the Weather Underground and a self-proclaimed feminist, was arrested and sent to Boston for trial, the feminist community there rallied to her support by forming “'energy circles'—sitting in a circle, holding hands, projecting empowering thoughts her way.”

Clearly, then, it is impossible to consider modern witchcraft and its ancient roots without seeing the footprints of the Serpent. Furthermore, witchcraft, goddess worship, neo-paganism, or whatever it is called, is on the rise in America and around the world. Its initiates consider themselves a part of the New Age movement. A mixture of elements of Eastern mysticism, Western occult traditions, and a Norman Vincent Peale style of “the power of positive thinking” is very much a part of modern witchcraft. Furthermore, it is the extreme example of the popular self-esteem, self-love gospel of the New Age. “Love of self for self,” according to Starhawk, “is the creative force of the universe.”38  

The horror of great darkness is sweeping over the West today. Christians must be aware that when the moon is full, writers, teachers, nurses, computer programmers, artists, lawyers, poets, plumbers, and auto mechanics—women and men from varied backgrounds—gather on hilltops, beaches, in open fields, and in ordinary houses to invoke the mother goddess and her consort, the “Horned One,” by their varied names. The women involved in these rituals have made a pact in the presence of the “Mighty Ones,” and, by kneeling and placing one hand on the top of their heads and the other hand beneath their heel, have said, “All between my two hands belongs to the Goddess.”39 (If not these exact words, then something similar.) As such, they have become the enemy of the one true God who has revealed Himself both in “Nature” and the Bible. As Christians, we, too, are their enemies. Everything God has ordained, they are determined to overthrow and destroy: monotheism with polytheism; patriarchy with matriarchy; the nuclear family with the coven community.
 
 

#5. Wolcott, C. S. (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). Feminist Biblical Hermeneutics. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

FEMINIST BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS A broadly applied term for approaches to biblical study that consider to varying degrees the relationship of the biblical text to women’s experiences. Most feminist hermeneutics fall into the larger category of socio-critical hermeneutics. Feminists work within a wide variety of theoretical approaches: sometimes feminist and theological hermeneutics are integrated; some feminists are concerned exclusively with applying the methods of reader-response theory; and other biblical feminists work within the bounds of historical, literary, or canonical criticism.

Overview

Feminist hermeneutics are informed by a commitment to the “critique of ideology” (Habermas, Apel). Feminist theology does not seek an objective, disinterested lens, but “in one way or another seeks to depatriarchalize not only the biblical texts but also theological traditions and systems that are based on patriarchal interpretations of the patriarchal texts” (Tate, Handbook, 158). A feminist biblical hermeneutic involves, to greater and lesser extents, a “reader-oriented perspective” (Dockery, Biblical Interpretation, 170).

Some branches of feminist theology react against the elitism of a feminist hermeneutic or theology that voices the concerns of the oppressed but still excludes the oppressed from interaction with the text, truths, and applications of Scripture. These branches include:

  •      Womanist theology, initiated by African-American women;

  •      the mujerista perspectives of Latin American women.

Despite variations within feminism, there are four common, consecutive features to feminist hermeneutics (Gutierrez, Theology of Liberation; Thiselton, New Horizons, 438–39):

  1.      women’s experience is the starting point;

  2.      women’s experience becomes a critical principle;

  3.      the biblical text speaks liberation (and does not merely reflect on liberation); and

  4.      the text is (understood to be) freed to carry eschatological hope from God.

Basic Feminist Approaches

Feminists tend to acknowledge the patriarchical nature of the Bible, but generally approach it from one of three perspectives (Mays, Old Testament Interpretation; Dockery, Biblical Interpretation, 170). Feminist biblical interpretations assign varying weight to women’s experience and tradition. This weight usually runs along these three generally categorizable streams and depends on the priority given to one or the other:

  1.      Loyalist/Traditionalist/Acceptance (exemplified by Evans, Storkey): Feminist concerns of patriarchy within this perspective are given little weight. Instead, it is tradition that is upheld as the most influential voice in the interpretation of the text. From within this perspective, feminist concerns take on a heavily critical pursuit to defend the intended meaning. For example, this viewpoint argues that Eph 5:22–32 insists on mutual submission.

  2.      Rejectionist/Substitution (exemplified in Mary Daly, Esther Fuchs): This approach is sometimes called a radical, post-Christian approach that is dismissive to the Bible (based on its patriarchal nature). The work of Daly and others is an attempt to deconstruct and rewrite what is understood by these interpreters to be an ultimately flawed text.

  3.      Reformist/Reconstruction/Positive Action (exemplified in Ruether, Fiorenza, Tolbert, Russell): Sometimes understood as the middle way, the reformist approach to biblical interpretation is the one that considers an integration between the patriarchal overtones of the text, women’s experience, and the tradition from which the biblical narrative was developed. This approach assumes that though a patriarchal bias exists, a critique is possible and even essential to a proper biblical hermeneutic. These critiques vary between the empirical and the social-critical.

    •      A more empirical approach directs feminists from their basic desire to retrieve women’s place in the narrative toward restoring those who have been relegated to silence.

    •      Socio-critical approaches instead take cues from the fields of liberation and marxist hermeneutics and maintain a “critique of ideology” (Habermas), which asks suspiciously of the text whether women’s experiences are being properly considered (Thiselton, New Horizons, 437).

According to Juan Luis Segundo, these biblical hermeneutics suggest that “the only ‘finality’ or ‘universality’ which is available is one of action and not of thought” (Segundo, as quoted in Thiselton, New Horizons, 418).

Hermeneutical Perspectives

Although there is very little consensus among feminist approaches to the Bible and few fit neatly within any of the following categories, it may be helpful to consider three major hermeneutical perspectives, each with varying capacity to honor feminist concerns (Dockery, Biblical Interpretation, 170).

Author-Oriented Hermeneutics

Author-oriented hermeneutics (Hirsch, Stendahl, McKenzie) give priority to the original meaning of the text. Within this perspective, evangelical feminists are able to locate positive readings for women in the balance of acknowledging patriarchy and honoring authorial intention. For example, from this perspective Eph 5:22–32 is understood as an egalitarian passage and it is argued that this was the intention of the author. N. T. Wright warns against “a hermeneutic of paranoia.… Just because we are rightly determined to avoid a hermeneutic of credulity, that does not mean there is no such thing as appropriate trust, or even readiness to suspend disbelief for a while, and see where it gets us” (Borg and Wright, Meaning, iii—iv).

Reader-Oriented Hermeneutics

Reader-oriented hermeneutics (Gadamer) is the approach most associated with feminism: pursuing inexhaustible meaning in the text, while the original meaning is essentially lost to present readers. This approach allows for extensive reader-response textual readings, depatriarchalization, and the maintenance of a “restless hermeneutic,” which claims to de-center the reader and honor marginality (Chopp, Power to Speak, 43; Thiselton, New Horizons, 450). Schussler Fiorenza’s influential feminist approach argues for a “canon within a canon,” in which some texts are dismissed as representative of a flawed patriarchy and others are considered authoritative.

Text-Oriented Hermeneutics

Text-oriented hermeneutics (Ricoeur, Nicholson) aim for a synthesis of the above two perspectives in the search for the author’s “intention” rather than the author’s “results.” Ricoeur is credited with the phrase “hermeneutics of suspicion,” a principle incorporated into the biblical hermeneutical strategies of most feminist scholarship.
 
 

#6. Shanks, H. (Ed.). (2004). BAS Feminist Approaches to the Bible. Biblical Archaeology Society

Before going any further, I should take a moment to define the terms “patriarchy” and “sexism” because they will occur throughout my discussion of feminist approaches to the Bible. Feminists generally use the term “patriarchy” to refer to the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children. The term is derived from Greco-Roman law, wherein the male head of the household had absolute power over all other members of the household. Of course, this system of male dominance existed long before the Greeks and Romans.* They just gave it clear legal articulation.

The concept of patriarchy is closely linked to another concept, sexism. The term “sexism” refers to the ideology of male supremacy. Sexism is the set of beliefs that establishes and sustains patriarchal institutions and systems.* One typical manifestation of sexism and patriarchy is the separation of the public and domestic spheres. In a patriarchal society, men confine women to the domestic sphere, over which they exercise control, while they reserve the public domain almost exclusively for themselves. Believing themselves to be intellectually, morally and physically superior to women, men deem themselves better suited to hold all or most of the civil and religious leadership and decision-making roles that govern society. In this way, they exercise control over women as a group.

The desire to control women’s sexuality and fertility seems to be one of the central underlying goals of patriarchal society and is accomplished by limiting women’s freedom of access to the public sphere, as well as women’s legal rights as persons. (Women didn’t become persons in Canadian law until 1929.)

All the societies in the ancient Mediterranean world during the period in which the biblical tradition was formed were patriarchal. It is not remarkable or unexpected, therefore, that a document produced in that context expresses the view that men are superior to women and that women are the property of men. Indeed, it would be remarkable if this were not the case. If the Bible is remarkable, it is because the expression of patriarchy is more, rather than less, pronounced than what is found in religious texts produced by surrounding cultures. Were it not for the fact that the Bible, as a fixed collection of texts, has been regarded by so many people as divinely inspired, and thus authoritative, the contents would be a matter of historical and literary interest only.

Those who were responsible for declaring the Bible the authoritative word of God surely never imagined a world beyond patriarchy, a world in which women would claim equality as they are now doing. But such a world is in the process of emerging. The Bible, which seems to offer a critique of some other forms of oppression, seems to promote sexual oppression. There is certainly no lack of evidence to show that many people who oppose women in their struggle for equality appeal to the Bible for divine support of their views.

Although patriarchy was certainly not invented by the authors of the Bible, most feminists, including most feminist biblical scholars, now concede that patriarchy is deeply ingrained in the Bible. In the early stages of feminism, many feminist theologians and biblical scholars hoped that an essential Bible could be separated from its patriarchal dimensions, that a nonpatriarchal canon-within-the-canon could be extracted from the whole and reclaimed for use in the future egalitarian feminist world. Today, that hope has all but disappeared, and other strategies for salvaging a nonpatriarchal, authoritative tradition are being explored. In my view, these new strategies not only are proving unsuccessful, but they have intensified the dilemma for those who want to identify themselves as Jewish feminists and Christian feminists, rather than simply as feminists.

But, in addition to hostility from those who oppose feminism or critical biblical scholarship, or a combination of the two, feminists who work with the Bible experience an additional and unusual problem. Feminist biblical scholarship is looked upon with suspicion, even disdain, perhaps as much by other feminists as by traditionalists, though for very different reasons

Other feminists suspect that feminist biblical scholars subordinate the ideology of feminism to the sexist ideology of the Bible and biblical tradition when they acknowledge the Bible as religiously authoritative. So the issue of the authority of the Bible, I believe, needs to be addressed more directly. In order to see where we stand with this issue now, I want to examine what I regard as some of the key strategic developments in feminist approaches to the Bible.
 
 

#7. Shanks, H. (Ed.). (2004). BAS Feminist Approaches to the Bible. Biblical Archaeology Society.

For 70 to 80 years thereafter, the feminist task of reinterpreting the Bible lay dormant, as did feminism itself.

Understandably, when feminism turns attention to the Bible, it first of all names the document as patriarchal. To name it thus means more than putting a label or tag of identification upon it. It means investigating patriarchy and beyond that indicting the Bible for this sin.

Feminism has no difficulty making a case against the Bible. It has no difficulty convicting the Bible of patriarchy. One could say that this recognition is the sine qua non of all feminist readings of the Bible. And yet the recognition that the Bible is a patriarchal document has led to different conclusions.*

Some feminists—they may be secular or religious—denounce the Bible as hopelessly misogynous. It is, they tell us, a woman-hating document, and there is no health in it. Other feminists have reprehensibly used patriarchal data to support anti-Semitic sentiments. They may posit a prehistoric or early historic era of what they think was “good” goddess worship that was undercut, discredited and demolished by the ascendancy of the Hebrew God.

To bring together the self-critique that operates in the Bible with the concerns of feminism is to shape an interpretation that makes a difference for all of us—an interpretation that begins with suspicion and becomes subversion, but subversion for the sake of redemption, for the sake of healing, wholeness and well-being.

What are the elements of this approach? Reinterpreting familiar texts is one procedure. Reinterpretation does not mean making the Bible say whatever the reader wants it to say. It does not hold that there are no limits to interpretation and that the text can, in effect, be rewritten. But reinterpretation does recognize the polyvalency of the text: that any text is open to multiple interpretations, that between those who adamantly hold fast to only one meaning and those who breezily claim that the text can be manipulated to say anything is a wide spectrum of legitimate meanings. Some of these meanings assert themselves boldly, and others have to be teased out.

Reinterpretation also recognizes the diversity of Scripture. The Bible is not a single-minded document; rather it teems with diverse voices and points of view. Despite attempts to harmonize it, by ancient redactors working within it for canonization or by modern commentators working from the outside to establish and reestablish its authority, the Bible itself comes to us full of struggles, battles, contradictions and problems. It refuses to be the captive of any one group or perspective.
 
 

#8. Geisler, N. L., & MacKenzie, R. E. (1995). Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: agreements and differences (p. 466). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

RADICAL FEMINISM

Radical feminism is closely related to liberation. In addition to the impulses that influence liberation theology in general, New Age concepts also have been incorporated in radical feminism. This movement is especially active in Roman Catholicism. Concerning the make-up of one feminist convention: “A startling majority of the women in attendance appeared to be Catholics: nuns, ex-nuns, students and faculty members from Catholic women’s colleges, parochial school teachers.”17 A quote from the “godmother” of Catholic feminism, Rosemary Radford Ruether, immediately locates her on the theological spectrum: “A lot of evil had been done in the name of Christ, but no crusades or pogroms had been sent in the name of Ba’al, Isis or Apollo.”18 Small wonder that orthodox Roman Catholics are exercised about this movement.19
 
 

#9. Perdue, L. G. (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). Theology, Old Testament. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Feminist Theology

Two major approaches have been used by feminist theologians:

  1.      Social-historical processes of inquiry.

  2.      Literary methods that involve the role of metaphor, rhetorical and new criticisms, and narratology.

The social-historical approach describes the roles and functions of women within the contexts of the larger social world reconstructed by cultural data. The literary approaches discover the roles of women in the Bible and noncanonical literature that were overlooked or misconstrued, usually by male interpreters
 
 

#10 Thomas Nelson, I. (1995). The Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

  WITCHCRAFT: SORCERY AND MAGIC

  Witchcraft is closely associated with goddess worship and feminism. Witches claim the “goddess” as a model for the stages of a woman’s life. They maintain that the feminine life-force of the universe, the goddess, appears in three forms: the maiden, the mother, and the crone. This triple aspect of the goddess is supposedly intertwined with the cycle of the moon. The waxing moon is the maiden, the full moon is the mother, and the waning moon is the crone. Witches draw meaning from the fact that the moon’s twenty-eight day cycle is mirrored by the twenty-eight day menstrual cycle.

  Witches characteristically belong to a coven—a small group of no more than thirteen members who meet to cast spells, conduct rituals, or raise a cone of healing energy at the full moon or solstice when the lunar or solar energies are considered to be at their high points.

  “White” magic is somewhat related to but contrasted with “black” magic and blatant Satanism. Black magic attempts to produce evil results through such methods as curses, spells, and alliance with evil spirits. White magic tries to undo curses and spells and to use occult means (gods, demons, spirits, or “forces”) for what the coven perceives to be the good of themselves or others. Rituals are used in both black and white magic to bend psychic force to the will of those in a coven.

  Witchcraft, sorcery, and magic are always condemned in Scripture (see Lev. 19:26; 20:27; Deut. 18:10–14; Judg. 8:21, 26; 2 Kin. 9:22; Is. 3:18–23; Ezek. 13:17–23; Mic. 5:12).