Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible

By Katherine Clay Bassard | Go to book overview

notes

INTRODUCTION. The Bible and African American
Women Writers: A Literary Witness

1. What I refer to as “the Bible in English” is the Protestant canon consisting of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Protestant canon consists of sixty-six books — thirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament — and omits the Apocryphal books that form a part of the Roman Catholic scriptures. I am aware of competing canons, such as the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh; yet it is undoubtedly the Protestant canon, especially the 1611 Authorized Version (commonly referred to as the King James Version), that has had the largest impact on African Americans from the period of slavery to the present. When other translations are used, they will be specified in the text.

2. Several recent works establish African American women's literature as intellectual and theological work in its own right. These include Joycelyn Moody's Sentimental Confessions and Gay Gibson Cima's Early American Women Critics.

3. See Alter and Kermode, The Literary Guide to the Bible; Robert Alter's Art of Biblical Poetry, Art of Biblical Narrative, World of Biblical Literature, and Canon and Creativity; and LaCocque and Ricouer, Thinking Biblically. See also Shuger, The Renaissance Bible; Moody, Sentimental Confessions; Yolanda Pierce, “Hell Without Fires”; and May, Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic. On the invisibility of religion in English departments, see Jenny Franchot's important article, “Invisible Domain.”


PART ONE. Troubling Hermeneutics

1. Speculum humanae salvationis, anonymous, 1450. For a complete text and commentary, see Adrian and Joyce Lancaster Wilson, A Medieval Mirror.


CHAPTER ONE. Talking Mules and Troubled Hermeneutics:
Black Women's Biblical Self-Disclosures

1. See Michael Barre's excellent reading of this scene in “Te Portrait of Balaam in Numbers 22–24.” Barre not only offers insight into the story of Balaam and the donkey but places it within the wider scope of references to Balaam throughout the Hebrew Bible and New Testament.

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