Feminist Bible 'Decoding'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

Feminist Bible 'Decoding'


Byline: Cynthia Grenier, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

That noxious best seller "The Da Vinci Code," which promotes the role Mary Magdalene played in the Savior's life not only as supposedly his lead disciple, but also as his wife and mother of his children, is still making headlines after 35 weeks at the top of the lists.

Newsweek, in its Dec. 8 issue, features Mary Magdalene as its cover person (detail from a 15th-century painting by Pietro Perugino) and gives prominent cover lines to "Women of the Bible: How Their Stories Speak to Us Today" and "Mary Magdalene: Decoding 'The Da Vinci Code.'"

The Newsweek cover story is written by - who else? - two women, Barbara Kantrowitz and Anne Underwood. The tone is decidedly feminist. The two write of "the new generation of women Biblical scholars who have brought a very modern passion to the ancient tradition of scriptural reinterpretation - to correct what these scholars regard as a male misreading of key texts."

They go on to note that "the Biblical focus has largely been on what God accomplished through the agency of men - from Adam to the Apostles. Of some 3,000 characters named in the Bible, fewer than 10 percent are women."

Newsweek's two writers report that women are attempting to right the balance by, for example, forming reading groups "to discuss the dozens of new scholarly and literary books about [Mary Magdalene] and debating her role on religious sites like Magdalene.org and Beliefnet.com."

Interestingly, one of the illustrations chosen to accompany the article is of a late-sixth-century painting of "Judith and Holofernes." The caption: "JUDITH THE CONQUEROR: The most striking protofeminist heroine in Scripture. When Israel was threatened, she killed the enemy general Holofernes and took his head home in a bag."

The pull-quote running along the foot of the page reads, "The ferocious warrior-heroine Judith is 'like Wonder Woman, only Jewish,' says one scholar."

Newsweek devotes a total of 71/2 pages to women and the Bible, including a half page on "Decoding 'The Da Vinci Code.'" Its gist: There are precious few facts to back up the theses of author Dan Brown.

Staying in a religious vein, Steven C. Munson reviews critical reaction to the El Greco exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in "El Greco and His Critics" in the December Commentary.

It's bad enough that the Ten Commandments are being removed from public buildings, but now it seems that El Greco, whose work has been around since the early 17th century, is being criticized for the religious nature of his paintings.

The show "attracted two revealing and remarkably hostile reviews, one in the New York Times by its regular art critic, Michael Kimmelman, and the other by the novelist John Updike in the New York Review of Books," Mr. …

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