An Interview with Jane D. Schaberg
Mitchem, Stephanie Y., Cross Currents
Jane D. Schaberg is a feminist biblical scholar, poet, and teacher. She is the author of The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Scholars Press, 1982) and The Illegitimacy of Jesus (Harper and Row, 1987; Crossroad, 1992; and Sheffield, 1994). The second book became a source of controversy and, for some Christians, violence. These events were reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education ("A Scholar's Conclusion About Mary Stirs Ire," 40 O 6 1993, p. 7). Yet some feminist thinkers received the book warmly As one reviewer stated: "[This book] should be included on reading lists as an example of some of the fruits of feminist scholarship." (1) Schaberg's articles have appeared in journals such as New Testament Studies, Semeia, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and the Journal for the Study of Judaism. She is the author of the commentary on Luke in the Women's Bible Commentary, and on the Proto-evangelium of James in Searching the Scriptures, and is currently editing a festschrift for Elisabeth Schuss ler Fiorenza, tentatively titled Wisdom on the Cutting Edge. She has appeared on A&E and Lifetime TV discussing feminist scholarship. Her forthcoming book, The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene: Legends, Apocrypha and Christian Testament is forthcoming from Continuum. An excerpt is included in this issue of CrossCurrents. Schaberg teaches at University of Detroit Mercy an urban Catholic college. It is here, as we became strategic allies, that our friendship developed. This interview was conducted at her home in Detroit, with her cat, banned from the room for playing with the tape recorder's electrical wiring, yowling in the background. Our conversation was often punctuated with laughter This was a seriously fun interview.
Stephanie Y. Mitchem: How do you describe yourself?
Jane D. Schaberg: Fun-loving scholar.
SYM: How would you describe your discipline?
JDS: It is not usually fun loving. But it could become so.
SYM: Why is it not fun loving?
JDS: The discipline of biblical studies has traditionally been very focused on exactitude and correct methodology. There are some fun loving people in it, and some who tweak the establishment.
SYM: What do you mean by "exactitude and correct methodology"?
JDS: The whole traditional way of going about looking at an ancient text. Starting with the text itself, looking at the languages, raising questions about form, sources, redaction, history, ideology, and so on. The masters' tools, you know. But they work differently in different hands, in different frameworks, used for different tasks than the old ones; for new purposes. But you have to inject some fun into it. It can't be fun all the time, but more than it is now.
SYM: How can biblical studies be fun? That sounds like something with eighth graders in a Bible school class.
JDS: I think, first of all, you have to get in the mood to enjoy hard work. So I'm not talking about eighth graders cutting out construction paper. You just have to develop a sense that the really hard work is energizing and fun. I think it's fun when you get different voices commenting, that's what I did with Virginia Woolf [in the Magdalene book]. Not commenting on what I was doing, but commenting on what she herself was doing, and I overhear her and putting her voice in. I learned a lot from Woolf. She was a hard worker. Everyday she wasn't sick, she wrote from ten to one. She said all you have to do if you want to be a writer is move your hand from left to right, from ten to one, everyday.
SYM: You mentioned tweaking the establishment, what did you mean?
JDS: Well, I probably shouldn't use that kind of phrase because that will sound like I meant the Illegitimacy book as a tweak and I did not.
SYM: What was it?
JDS: It was a serious attempt to join the ranks. I was dead serious and I wasn't tweaking anybody in that book. …