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Susanne Scholz A Scholarly Conversation about the Feminist and Gendered Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Discussion of „Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Retrospect“ at the EABS 2016 in Leuven, Belgium


Die hier präsentierte Sammlung von Beiträgen dokumentiert das Panel „Feminist Approaches to the Bible“, organisiert von Susanne Scholz und Hanna Stenström bei der EABS-Tagung in Leuven im Sommer 2016. Die Diskussionsgrundlage dieses intensiven feministisch- theologischen Gesprächs bildete das dreibändige Werk Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Retrospect, erschienen bei Sheffield Phoenix Press in den Jahren 2013, 2014 und 2016 (herausgegeben von Susanne Scholz). Die Beiträge von Klaus-Peter Adam, Hanna Tervanotko und Karin Tillberg reflektieren auf Grundlage dieses Werks Fragen moderner feministischer Exegese zwischen methodisch-hermeneutischen Errungenschaften und neuen Herausforderungen und Perspektiven.


Susanne Scholz

During one of the hottest and most humid weeks in the summer of 2016, the European Association of Biblical Studies (EABS) met at the Catholic University (Katholieke Universiteit) in Leuven, Belgium. The meeting was jointly held with the International Organization for Qumran Studies, and an illustrious group of about 400 scholars met in the classrooms and hallways of the Department of Catholic Theology from July 17-20. I had never before attended an EABS meeting, but I knew from my colleague, Dr. Hanna Stenström at the Stockholm School of Theology in Sweden, that our co-organized panel on “Feminist Approaches to the Bible” would be the only explicitly feminist session in the program book. In fact, it had been Hanna who, in the summer of 2015, had looked for other feminist exegetes to co-organize a panel on feminist biblical studies for the upcoming EABS meeting in Leuven. Hanna, having attended previous EABS meetings, wanted to make sure that the 2016 meeting would feature a visible feminist scholarly presence. When nobody else jumped at the opportunity to organize a scholarly session on feminist biblical exegesis, I decided to help Hanna in her worthy cause. After a few emails back and forth, we decided to submit a proposal for a “one-year workshop” to the EABS team since we could not commit to a three- year research unit, the other option according to the EABS proposal guidelines.
The EABS proposal process is involved because a full proposal requires detailed explanations on the “rationale of the proposed research unit,” an “in-depth research plan and methodology,” and a description about “the important and originality of the research unit’s topic, and/or methodology, including comments on how it will advance the mission of the EABS.” Hanna and I decided to organize a scholarly conversation about the feminist and gendered study of the Hebrew Bible, within its intersectional manifestations. We wanted our research unit to engage “the feminist study of biblical literature, with a focus on epistemological, hermeneutical, and methodological questions.” The basis for the feminist scholarly conversation would be the three-volume series I had just completed editing. Entitled Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Retrospect, the three volumes had been published by Sheffield Phoenix Press in 2013, 2014, and 2016. Volume 1 gathered feminist exegetical research on the various books of the Hebrew Bible, Volume 2 assessed feminist biblical scholarship organized by various social locations, and Volume 3 evaluated the use of various exegetical methods in feminist Hebrew Bible studies. A total of 45 contributors had produced informative, engaging, and comprehensive treatments on feminist biblical exegesis, as it has developed worldwide since the early 1970s. We hoped our proposed panel would provide the EABS audience with the opportunity to learn more about the three volumes and to hear competent scholars offer their reflections on epistemological, hermeneutical, and methodological concerns in regard to feminist biblical scholarship in general.
When the EABS team accepted our proposal, we invited three panelists to join us in Leuven in July 2016. We were delighted that the following three colleagues agreed to join our panel: Dr. Klaus-Peter Adam, a professor of Old Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in the USA, Dr. Hanna Tervanotko, an Academy of Finland post-doctoral researcher at the Centre of Excellence (“Changes in Sacred Texts and Traditions’) at the University of Helsinki in Finland, and Karin Tillberg, a doctoral student in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible exegesis at the Department of Theology at the Uppsala University in Sweden. We could not have wished for better contributors to bring the following three questions into conversation with the three volumes: First, what are the epistemological, hermeneutical, and methodological accomplishments of feminist Hebrew Bible interpretations? Second, what are the innovative, creative, and challenging new directions in the field of feminist biblical studies? Third, how does the field of feminist, gender, and queer biblical studies intermingle with contemporary forces of globalization, neoliberalism, and corporate militarization, as they currently present themselves in politics, economics, culture, and religion?
Our three panelists offered succinct statements about the feminist study of the Hebrew Bible from their particular positions. Their papers include detailed, thoughtful, and critical engagement with selected essays published in Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Retrospect. They also provide intriguing suggestions for future feminist exegetical engagement, as they make clear that much remains to be done in the pursuit of dismantling structures of gender domination, in its various manifestations, within Hebrew Bible exegesis and beyond. We are most grateful for the commitment of the journal editors to include the three panel statements by Dr. Adam, Dr. Tervanotko, and Ms. Tillberg in this issue of lectio difficilior.

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Susanne Scholz, Ph.D.,

is Professor of Old Testament at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, USA. As a diasporic German feminist Bible scholar, she has published widely in the area of feminist Hebrew Bible studies located in the post-Holocaust and neoliberal economic world, as well as on the epistemological and hermeneutical theoretical implications of reading biblical literature today.

© Susanne Scholz , 2016,, ISSN 1661-3317