Who Was Hagar?
John W Waters
Biblical stories have long provided a basis for research into the world of the ancient Near East. Often biblical research reflects contemporary interests and technology. There are many biblical stories that could serve to demonstrate this principle. One such story that has become rather popular in recent times is to be examined in this analysis. It is the story of Hagar, one of several wives of Abraham (Abram). Several feminist theologians have examined the Hagar cycle of stories: Some present Hagar as a very strong woman; others treat her as a weak, submissive slave. This wide divergence of opinion makes Hagar a prime subject of study. Rosemary Ruether, a feminist theologian, provides some insight for an investigation of the patriarchal period in which the Hagar cycle of stories is set. She writes:
Feminist theology is engaged in a critique of the androcentrism and misog-
yny of patriarchal theology. What does this mean? First of all it means that,
in patriarchal theology, the male is taken to be the normative and domi-
nant representative of the human species. The male is the norm for imaging
God, for defining anthropology, sin, redemption, and ministry. The female
is seen as subordinate and auxiliary to the male. Therefore women never
appear in patriarchal theology as representatives of humanity as such.
Their normative position is that of absence and silence. When patriarchal
theology mentions women, it does so to reinforce its definition of their
“place” in its system.1
1. Rosemary R. Ruether, “The Future of Feminist Theology in the Academy,” Journal
of the American Academy of Religion 53, no. 4 (1985): 704. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza