Holy Mary, mother of women's studies?

A feminist theologian makes Bible study safe for politically empowered women.

Published February 27, 2006 7:05PM (EST)

For those of you looking to leech the patriarchy out of your Bible studies, Broadsheet presents Phyllis Trible, a feminist theologian profiled this weekend in the Winston-Salem Journal. The author of four books on the feminist interpretation of the Good Book, Trible tells the paper, "So many women have an interest in or commitment to the Bible, but they struggle with it." Trible began her quest because, according to the Journal, "people told her that the Bible and feminism were enemies  Many of the women in the Bible are almost silent, or they are abused, raped or otherwise mistreated."

But Trible has sought out the exceptions, or at least the reinterpretations, starting with Eve, who she argues is an active participant in the story of the downfall of Eden. (Hmm, yeah, definitely active. But not so much in a good way.) Trible points out that at least Eve was the perceptive partner when it came to her observations about that tempting apple tree. Adam "just eats  He doesn't speak out," Trible says.

Trible has also found layers in the Book of Ruth's tale of the widowed Ruth's fealty to mother-in-law Naomi ("Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay"), which has been used as a model in some Korean churches for how a young bride marries both a husband and a mother-in-law. Trible's take is that because Ruth made her decision to accompany Naomi of her own will, and later was married to Boaz, it's not a valid example of a woman's duty to bind herself to her mother-in-law for the rest of her life.

For believers discomfited by some of the Bible's troubling depictions of women, Trible's work has been valuable. She told the Journal that she is often thanked by women who, after reading her scholarship, feel that "they are not bound by traditional interpretations of the Bible that would put women in subordinate positions."

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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