Feminist Approaches to the
When I first began to publish essays on gender and the Hebrew Bible there were but a handful of publications on this subject, mostly in the history of religion.1 Little did I imagine that within two decades the topic would burgeon into a sub-field within biblical studies, complete with conflicting interpretive theories and methods as well as a full gamut of interdisciplinary approaches, ranging from literary criticism to history, from sociology to theology, from anthropology to narrative theory. Three major commentaries on women in the Bible have appeared since the subject emerged as a legitimate area of scholarly study, including a dictionary of named and unnamed women, and a number of entries in encyclopedias and reference books.2 In addition, there are a number of anthologies, including a volume on feminist theories and methods, as well as introductions and readers.3
The interest in gender and the Bible has become all the more intense since the early 1990s with the recognition of the role played by racial, ethnic, sexual, national, and religious differences among feminist readers.4 In the United States, the religious authority or status of the Bible has generated a spate of publications among theologians as well, for whom the question affects practices, such as ordination and inclusion in leadership positions, as well as educational, ritual, and administrative activities in various denominations in Christianity and Judaism.
Despite the sudden wealth of publications, little has been done to map out a history of contemporary feminist theoretical thinking about the Hebrew Bible.5 Few have been the attempts to sort out the various feminist approaches, how they evolved, and their lines of contention and of