This title was first published in 2003. Few would deny that the Bible is an overwhelmingly patriarchal book that, over the centuries, has exercised considerable influence on the way in which women are perceived in society. From the opening chapters of Genesis, where woman is created to serve as man's "helper", to the pronouncements of Paul concerning the submission of wives to their husbands and the silencing of women in communal worship, the primary emphasis of the Bible is on woman's subordinate status. Feminist biblical critics raise the obvious question: how should women in communities of faith respond to the Bible's largely negative appraisal of women and oppressive patriarchal emphasis? Eryl Davies introduces the wide range of feminist approaches to the Hebrew Bible: from critics who recover neglected perspectives in the biblical tradition and argue that the Bible is not oppressively patriarchal, to others who reject biblical traditions, arguing that they are so immersed in a patriarchal culture that no parts are worth redeeming. Davies suggests that the most promising approach deploys a reader-oriented literary approach to the Hebrew Bible: by focusing on the literary representation of women through plot, dialogue and characterization, some of the subtle ways in which biblical authors sought to reinforce patriarchal values and endorse women's inferior status are highlighted. Davies argues that readers of the Hebrew Bible must be prepared to question and challenge the values and assumptions inherent in the text: they must don the mantle of the "dissenting reader" and apply what feminist biblical critics have termed a "hermeneutic of suspicion" to its content without denouncing the authority of the Bible as a sacred text.
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