Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels.
Only 15 women are named within the Gospel tradition. In this elegant volume, Richard Bauckham focuses primarily on eight: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Mary (Jesus' mother), Anna, Joanna, Mary (wife of Clopas), and Salome. Timely and important, the book contributes to feminist biblical interpretation and a growing interest in individual characters within biblical narratives. Five of the book's eight chapters were previously published over the last decade, with three entirely new: on Jesus' mother Mary (chap. 3), Joanna (chap. 5), and the women at the tomb (chap. 8).
B. uses both historical and literary methods, especially vocalization (identifying the "voice" within a text) and intertextuality (reading various texts together). His engagement of feminist biblical criticism finds him both appreciative and critical, especially of a hermeneutics of suspicion that too readily dismisses the canon as hopelessly patriarchal. Instead, he wants readers to relish possibilities for counterbalancing the androcentrism of patriarchy within the canon by recognizing and valuing the female voice as exemplified in the Book of Ruth (chap. 1). Ironically, one of the best aspects of the work is that B. often takes his readers far afield from the canon into a rich array of intertestamental, apocryphal, gnostic, and patristic sources that will excite and entice many readers to read outside the canon. There is much to learn from this erudite book.
Chapter 2 focuses on the three named women in Matthew's genealogy. The question posed is why these women were included in a patrilineal genealogy. B. concludes that by being Gentile the women best serve Matthew's purpose in portraying Jesus' mission as inclusive. Thus B. insightfully links the "Gentile foremothers" named in Matthew's genealogy with the Syro-Phoenician woman of Matthew 15. But B. reaches this conclusion by arguing for "the best" interpretation rather than accepting that more than one interpretation may be valid. As a result he dismisses a feminist interpretation championing the women as taking initiative and acting on their own behalf because "the wife of Uriah" does not fit the pattern, she having been seduced by King David. Yet one can argue that Bathsheba took action when it mattered most, making sure her son Solomon succeeded David on the throne (1 Kings 1)--not unlike that bold SyroPhoenician whose request won first Jesus' rebuke and then his praise and response.
Chapter 3, titled "Elizabeth and Mary in Luke 1: Reading a Gynocentric Text Intertextually," actually says little about Elizabeth. But it offers an intriguing and satisfying reading of Luke 1:5-80 that explores "Mary as Agent of God's Salvation of Israel" and "Mary's Lowly Status." Chapter 4 presents B.'s painstaking historical research to track down the importance of the prophetess Anna as belonging to the northern tribe of Asher-outside the power center of Judea in the south. With this allusion, B. argues, Luke emphasizes Jesus' inclusion of all Israel, north and south, exiles and inhabitants.
Chapter 5, the longest in the book, focuses on Joanna mentioned in Luke 8:1-3 and thereby repairs the neglect lamented by Elisabeth MoltmannWendel: "Hardly anyone knows Joanna. Theologians in their studies never meet her and they have ignored her in biblical studies" (109). Making the most of recent historical studies of lower Galilee, B. unravels what Joanna's description as "the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward" might mean. He further hypothesizes that Joanna reappears as Junia (her Roman name) in Romans 16:7 coupled with Andronicus (165-86). B. ends with a sketch of Joanna as an "exercise of historical imagination," and further insights for "readers on the road with Joanna" (199-200).
Chapter 6 presents B.'s dogged pursuit of the identity of Mary of Clopas as Jesus' aunt, while Chapter 7 distinguishes between Salome, sister of Jesus, and Salome, a disciple of Jesus (Mk 15:40 and 16:1) whose description by Morton Smith as "a controversial figure" B. disputes (247-56).
The final chapter gives the book a strong finish by raising the issue of women's credibility as witnesses to the Resurrection. Related texts from Josephus and Pseudo-Philo illustrate the cultural bias that assumed only men received direct revelation from God (274). By assigning an essential role to women as witnesses to the Resurrection, the Gospels void that prejudice and empower women--a goal this book obviously shares.
Seattle University KAREN A. BARTA
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|Author:||Barta, Karen A.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2003|
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