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Women as Interpreters of the Bible.

Women as Interpreters of the Bible. By Patricia Demers. New York: Paulist, 1992. Pp. 181. $12.95.

This is a wide-ranging book. The opening chapter, "Women's Interpretative Word: Tradition and Difference," is followed by four more in which Demers considers four groups in the history of women's interpretation of the Bible: "medieval visionaries," "renaissance exegetes," "governesses and matriarchs," and modern feminist hermeneutics. The concluding chapter and notes are very brief, but there is an ample and useful bibliography, in addition to general and biblical indices.

The most interesting chapters are those in which D. deals with her own field, Renaissance and children's literature. Here she introduces the reader to a range of women who used the Bibl to express their experience either as dissidents with their own spiritual tale to tell, or as those responsible for supplying biblical "milk for babes" in the 18th and 19th centuries. Works of retrieval like this are of real service. The chapter on medieval women contains little that is new. The one on modern feminist hermeneutics includes such topics as the significance of goddesses and the feminine in God, the status of Eve, the motherhood of Yahweh, and some problems of biblical and liturgical language; here (as elsewhere) D. shows familiarity with much modern scholarship and makes balanced judgments about it, but the issues are just too complex to be handled adequately in the space available. This is, of course, the besetting weakness of surveys.

The book has also the strengths of the "survey" genre, however. It attempts to fill a gap that certainly exists, for until recently, surveys of biblical interpretation all but ignored women's contributions. Further, by demonstrating (and documenting) well the variety of ways in which women have used the Bible, D. has opened a potentially rich vein that could be mined cooperatively by historians, sociologists, and those with literary expertise, including biblical exegetes.

Patricia M. McDonald, S.H.C.J.

Mount Saint Mary's College

Emmitsburg, Md.
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Author:McDonald, Patricia M.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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