The Women of Genesis: From Sarah to Potiphar's Wife

The Women of Genesis: From Sarah to Potiphar's Wife

The Women of Genesis: From Sarah to Potiphar's Wife

The Women of Genesis: From Sarah to Potiphar's Wife

Synopsis

The women of Genesis 12-50 function as much more than ancillary characters to men. Through close attention to the literary features of the text, Jeansonne depicts Sarah, the daughters of Lot, Hagar, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, Dinah, Tamar, and Potiphar's wife as integral persons who shaped Israel's destiny, revealed perspectives on God's involvement in the course of history, and portrayed human failure, freedom, and strength.

Excerpt

The current generation of biblical interpreters increasingly recognizes that past studies of women in the Bible have suffered from patriarchal bias. Simplistic stereotypes of female characters and their reduction to minor significance have prompted many biblical scholars to reconsider the texts in a new perspective. Because of its placement as the first book of the Bible, Genesis has held a particularly noteworthy place in interpreting the history, sociology, and theology of the Israelite community. The women featured in the Genesis narratives play crucial roles in the developing story line of Israel's origins.

Rather than investigate the texts for their historical or sociological import, I have undertaken a narrative-critical approach that examines the functions the women perform in enhancing our understanding of the Book of Genesis as story and art. I have begun the investigation at Genesis 12, the narrative that begins to unfold Israel's self-understanding as a people who originate with Abraham and Sarah. I investigate individual narratives as they currently stand in Genesis and I consider their literary features and relationships to the greater narrative context. My premise is that the content and arrangement of narratives in Genesis is crafted literary art.

While some modern interpreters claim that the patriarchal structures from which the stories come make them hopelessly inappropriate for today, I feel that the stories often were poignant and inspiring for the audience who originally heard them, and still have relevance for us who seek to leam not only what the text meant but what it can mean.

I am indebted to the many people who contributed to the formation of this book. Pamela Milne of the University of Windsor kindly read the manuscript and offered insights. My colleagues John Schmitt and Rita Burns of Marquette University carefully critiqued the study. One chapter was presented to the theology faculty colloquium, and I profited from questions raised there and from written suggestions given by Julian Hills. The chair of the theology department, Phillip Rossi, assisted me in obtaining research support and furnished leave time. Carol Stockhausen encouraged me to apply for the Catholic Biblical Association's fellowship, and I wish . . .

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