Liberation Feminist Hermeneutics, as described

By Elisabeth Schuessler Firoenza
Hermeneutics Seminar


February 29/00


Box #260

Table of Contents I. Introduction………………………………………………………………..p.3
A. An Historical Overview…………………………………………..p.3-4


B. An Overview of Feminist Hermeneutics………………………..p.4-5


VI. Presuppositions


A. Introduction and Preface to the Hermeneutics of ……………..p.6


Elisabeth Schuessler Fiorenza


B. Scripture: Mythical Archetype vs. Historical Prototype………p.6-8


C. Egalitarianism and Gender………………………………………p.8-9


D. Patriarchy………………………………………………………….p.9-10


V. A Hermeneutics of Proclamation: Goals of Feminist Hermeneutics….p.10-12


VI. Techniques


A “The Discipleship of Equals”: Historical Reconstruction……...p.12-14


B. A Hermeneutics of Suspicion and Actualization………………..p.15-16


VII. Fiorenza in Action!: Galatians 2:28…………………………………..p.16-17


VIII. Conclusion ……………………………………………………………..p.17-18


IX. Works Cited………………………………………………………………p.19




















I. Introduction


For millennia, indeed all of recorded history, women have remained in drastic seclusion in society and historical studies. The Bible provides no radical difference in this historical analysis. Indeed, the Bible maintains much of the patriarchal presuppositions and attitudes of surrounding cultures and societies. The OT contains many patriarchal mindsets and laws; the NT canon seems somewhat contradictory over the place of women in the church, family, and society. It is in this environment that women find themselves in the twentieth century. Women, particularly egalitarian feminists, struggle over what is the appropriate response to the Bible, Christian traditions, and the church. Phyllis Trible comments on feminist hermeneutics and theology (which is often hard to distinguish) as follows:


But perhaps I have said enough to show that in various and sundry ways feminist hermeneutics is challenging interpretations old and new. In time, perhaps, it will yield a biblical theology of womanhood (not to be subsumed under the label humanity) with roots in the goodness of creation female and male.[1]


We shall see if it does.

A. Historical Overview and Context
Only recently, the last one hundred and fifty years, has a sustained feminist consciousness arisen. That consciousness began almost exclusively in western society, with little of the third and second worlds partaking. This struggle came to climax in the 1960’s, after the conservative reactions of both world wars had subsided. The extended peacetime allowed a strong feminist awareness to take place. It is in this environment that women began to look critically at the Biblical text itself. The feminists could not simply ignore religion, because despite its regressions, religion still plays an important role in the life experience of millions of women across the world. Thus began the process of re-interpreting and examining the Bible with a feminist critique in mind.

B. An Overview of Feminist Hermeneutics
The largess of feminist hermeneutics is as diverse as any other field of hermeneutics. Techniques and presuppositions vary and differ across many different spectrums. Evangelical feminists believe in the historical accuracy of the Biblical text and its inerrancy. These feminists tend to hold to an “equal-but-different” analysis of gender, marriage, and sexuality. They attempt to stay within the orthodox understanding of the Christian faith, but raise serious questions regarding the common male interpretation of texts. Unlike liberal feminist scholarship, they never question the truthfulness of the text itself. Evangelical feminists wish to bring women into all spheres of the church, but tend to overlook many of the patriarchal assumptions of the text. They tend to use the historical-grammatical method, so long as it embraces conservative Protestant theology (that is to say in the essentials of doctrine).



Liberation feminist scholarship tends to have a much lower view of scriptural authority. They are for the most part egalitarians, who wish that women and men should be treated equally and endorse and equality of ends, in which all members of society have equal treatment and life. Egalitarians also dismiss most so-called “natural” differences between the sexes as socially constructed phenomena. Thus, their goal is to interpret the text with feminist concerns in mind and liberate it from its androcentric beginnings. These liberation feminists are closely aligned with other liberation hermeneutical groups, including: Latin, African, and African-American liberation theology. These feminists hope to not only change the church, but also interpret the text in a socio-political context of feminism, thus challenging the culture with a prophetic-messianic mandate. As Elisabeth Fiorenza states:


The Bible is not simply a religious but also a profoundly political book as it continues to inform the self-understandings of American and European “secularized” societies and cultures. Feminist biblical interpretations therefore have a critical political significance not only for women in biblical religion but also for all women in Western societies.[2]


This liberation feminist scholarship