10 Years of lectio difficilior
Mit der 22. Ausgabe der lectio difficilior feiern die Herausgeberinnen, alle Frauen des editorial board und die AutorInnen das 10-jährige Jubiläum eines erfolgreichen Projekts. Wir verstanden das kurze Treffen beim internationalen Kongress der Society of Biblical Literature in Tartu (Estland) als Beginn einer Reflexionsphase, die nicht nur für das Projekt unserer Zeitschrift, sondern insgesamt für die feministische Exegese von Bedeutung sein dürfte. Was haben wir in den letzten 10 Jahren geleistet? Inwiefern hat sich das Forschungsfeld verändert? Sind wir zufrieden mit unseren Erfolgen? Oder stagniert die Entwicklung? Was bedeutet “feministisch“ im Bezug auf unsere Exegese, Hermeneutik, Theologie? Wie verhalten sich Feminismus und Genderforschung zueinander? Schließlich: wie steht es mit der Präsenz von feministischen ExegetInnen in Lehre und Forschung?
Wir betrachten es nicht als unsere Aufgabe, diese Fragen zu beantworten, aber vielleicht doch einige Langzeitbeobachtungen beizutragen, die für eine noch zu leistende Analyse wichtig sein dürften. Mit solchen Beobachtungen befassen sich die Artikel dieser Ausgabe der lectio difficilior.
With the 22th edition of lectio difficilior the editors, all the women
on the editorial board, and the authors celebrate the tenth anniversary of a
successful project. It has been a great experience to participate in the
anniversary panel for our electronic journal at the International Meeting of
the Society of Biblical Literature in
We understood the
brief gathering in
Our task is not
to answer these questions, yet perhaps to contribute some long-term observations
that may be important for a required potential analysis. The idea of launching
a feminist exegetical journal was born at a meeting of contributors to the “Kompendium
Feministische Bibelauslegung”, edited by Luise Schottroff and Marie-Theres
Wacker, which took place in Münster (
The women who participated in the planning of the project took some time to search a good name for the new journal and decided in favor of the programmatic and bold name, which profoundly transforms a technical term of text criticism into a feminist message. Not all scholars of textual criticism were or are pleased that we scrounged a term from their serious toolbox and used it for a somewhat different purpose. In the beginning, it was necessary to make fundamental decisions, for example, that we would publish articles of male authors if their contributions were feminist, while we would not include men into the decision-making bodies. In lectio difficilior no articles appear that were already published elsewhere, yet we explicitly support to publish our articles later in print journals (with reference to lectio difficilior as venue of first publication), in order to avoid disadvantages for younger scholars who need to publish also in non-feminist journals.
From the beginning lectio difficilior was meant to be an
interdisciplinary and Jewish-Christian or rather nondenominational journal and
both characteristics are still essential. Many articles refer to subject areas
such as classical
philology, archeology, Egyptology, ancient Near Eastern studies, ancient
history, Jewish studies, history of art, pedagogy, music history, literary
studies etc. Additionally, the articles may appear in English, French or
German, and focus on various regions in and, often, beyond
It is hardly possible to systematize the approximately 80 articles published so far with regard to hermeneutics, methods, and contents, or to highlight any specific trends among them. Surely, these contributions document that their authors discovered feminist exegesis like a new ocean, searched it and started to measure its depths in all points of the compass – thus a decade of exploration. There are some recurrent themes in this variety, for example: the constant interest in deuterocanonical scriptures, in texts and topics around violence and rape, in female biblical prophets. 
In view of this broad spectrum of
topics and approaches the question came up consistently – and also in the panel
1. Around the time when lectio difficilior was launched, the term “feminist” was replaced by “gender” at universities and research communities. Terms like “gender studies”, “gender-specific” etc. were introduced as more appropriate descriptions of the issue with regard to reality and gender relations, and especially with regard to political correctness, although at this point, especially feminist theologians had already clarified that “feminist” did not just mean “relating to women”, but was meant to be a comprehensive category of gender analysis (cf. e.g. E. Schüssler Fiorenza’s definition of patriarchy, or rather kyriarchy). There was hardly any discussion whether it was prudent with regard to the policies of universities and women to substitute the term “feminism” by “softer” expressions. For more than ten years identifications and concepts of both fields have overlapped significantly; likewise many contributions in lectio difficilior are more interested in gender research than in a clearly stated feminist approach. In the same time period, also liberation theology has lost its contours so that hardly any authors would currently identify themselves with this approach. Therefore it seems urgent to fill the attribute “feminist” in a new way. Beyond dispute, the attribute implies an interdisciplinary approach and a plurality of methods. As a political term, “feminist” awaits its reformulation without becoming an instrument of exclusion.
2000, feminism, feminist theology, and feminist exegesis have been
institutionalized to very different degrees within European countries. Jorunn
Økland is able to speak of some sort of state feminism with regard to
Scandinavian countries. In German speaking regions, some feminist theologians
obtained regular university chairs, especially in biblical studies. The
percentage of women, however, is still small in many sectors of academic life,
e.g. among chairs of institutions, in conference and public lectures, and in articles
of mainstream publishing. Whereas in Europe a backlash is clearly perceptible in
numerous places, feminist theology seems to develop dynamically and with
promise in many regions outside
3. The basic concern of all critical theology, namely to alert to a dangerous and subversive memory (J.B. Metz), with regard to feminist theology and exegesis still means: to commemorate women, to inscribe women into history, to relate oneself to women, to read and cite the works of women of former and contemporary times, and to take up their questions.
Having said this, we (the editors,
the women of the editorial board and authors) are looking forward to many more
successful years of lectio difficilior.
At this point, special thanks go to Dr. Ulrike Sals who since 2004 undertook with
utter commitment and great consistency the copy-editing of articles and many
more tasks in planning, organizing, and implementing the journal. After her
appointment ends, Ulrike Sals will leave the
 Cf. Ulrike Sals, Reading the Difficult Way – for Ten Years. In: Annette Esser et al. (eds.): Feminist Approaches to Interreligious Dialogue (Journal of ESWTR 17), Leuven 2009, 209-214.
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Christl. M. Maier is professor of Old Testament at the
Philipps University of Marburg since 2007. Before that she was teaching at the
Silvia Schroer is
professor of Old Testament and Related Studies at the Faculty of Theology,
© Christl M. Maier, Silvia Schroer 2010, email@example.com, ISSN 1661-3317