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#1 Guntis

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 04:26 PM

Hi,
Could anyone please enlighten me what's the difference between the New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible (5 volumes) and The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (6 volumes)?
I see that NIDB has about 1100 more topics. How would you compare them? If I had to choose one between these two, which one would be better? (I am a pastor with inclination towards theology, if that has some weight here.)
“Teach the way of God in Accordance” (Matt 12:14, NIV-Accordance edition)
“Those who live in Accordance (with the Spirit) have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Rom 8:5, NIV-Accordance edition)

#2 Dan Francis

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 05:41 PM

Both are very good, i tend to find anchor a bit better but know others would disagree... I am going to show you the article on Liberation theology... but Anchor does not have it. So I switch to Feminist to give you a comparison. but still tossed in Liberation from NIDB for good measure.

 

-Dan

 
 
 
Liberation Theology. Liberation theology is an interpretive approach to Scripture historically rooted in the Latin American social context of poverty and oppression. It calls for Christian action on behalf of the marginalized majority. Liberation theologians emphasize the more tangible dimension of biblical salvation, the notion of physical deliverance from captivity and oppression. They therefore appeal to OT themes of LIBERATION and justice and, in the NT, Christ as liberator. In contemporary expression, liberation thought has evolved into a variety of theologies that seek to address the oppression of a number of classes of people.
Liberation theology is guided by two fundamental principles:1) theology as critical reflection that follows a prior commitment to liberation, thus, theology as a “second act”; and 2) the articulation of theology from the perspective of the poor and oppressed.
The first principle entails a radical reorientation of classical theological method, rejecting the notion of theology as consisting of abstract and timeless truths conditioned by scholarly debate. Rather, authentic theology is first a contextual response to actual social situations and only subsequently shaped by critical reflection. Theologians are practitioners bringing about the transformation of society. The measure of theology is orthopraxis rather than orthodoxy.
The second principle, what has been called the preferential option for the poor, emphasizes the oppressed and the poor of the world as the locus of God’s revelation. To know God requires genuine experiential solidarity with the marginalized. Liberation theologians contend, as exemplified in the social reality of Latin America, the failure of traditional theologies to address critical issues of justice and oppression is because of a faulty starting point and a faulty procedure. Further, poverty and oppression are not primarily individual issues but the result of larger social structures that must be overthrown. There is, therefore, an inseparable link between religion and politics.
Critics of liberation thought recognize the legitimate emphasis upon compassion for the poor as a central biblical theme. However, objections have been raised regarding other fundamental characteristics and operative principles, including the advocacy of violent revolution, adoption of Marxist social analysis, reorientation of theological method, and redefinition of fundamental Christian concepts such as salvation, with an unbalanced emphasis upon political and economic concerns at the expense of the spiritual. The critical issue is one of theological control, whether the primary source of divine revelation is located in human experience, thereby blurring the line between theology and ideology, versus God’s definitive self- disclosure in biblical revelation. See ETHNICITY; FEMINIST INTERPRETATION; GAY INTERPRETATION; LATINO- LATINA INTERPRETATION; LESBIAN INTERPRETATION; MARGINAL, MARGINALIZATION; MUJERISTA INTERPRETATION; POOR; POST- COLONIAL BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION; POVERTY; WOMANIST INTERPRETATION.
Bibliography:Leonardo Boff and Clodovis Boff. Introducing Liberation Theology (1987); José Míguez Bonino. Doing Theology in a Revolutionary Situation (1975); Gustavo Gutiérrez. A Theology of Liberation:History, Politics, and Salvation. Rev. ed. (1988); Arthur F. McGovern. Liberation Theology and Its Critics (1989); Ivan Petrella. The Future of Liberation Theology:An Argument and Manifesto (2004); Christopher Rowland, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Liberation Theology (1999); Juan Luis Segundo. The Liberation of Theology (1976).
Mark E. Taylor
 
----------------------------------Anchor Below followed by NIDB
 

FEMINIST HERMENEUTICS Writing a dictionary article on feminist hermeneutics may encourage several misconceptions. It gives the impression that feminist hermeneutics is a finished research product rather than an ongoing process within the context of women’s societal and ecclesial struggles for justice and liberation. It also highlights proposed solutions rather than the experiences and questions which have engendered them. Insofar as this article is qualified by “feminist”and other entries are not marked, for instance, as “masculinist”or “white,”readers may assume that an objective discipline and unqualified approach to hermeneutics exists. As long as other contributions do not explicitly articulate the fact that knowledge and scholarship is perspectival, such a misapprehension seems unavoidable. Yet feminist inquiry is not more, but less, ideological because it deliberately articulates its theoretical perspective without pretending to be value-free, positivistic, universal knowledge.

 

A. A Delineation of Terms

Since the expression “feminist”evokes reactions, emotions, and prejudices, it becomes necessary to delineate the ways in which the term is here used in conjunction with hermeneutics.

1. Feminist/Womanist. The term “feminist”is commonly used today for describing those who seek to eliminate women’s subordination and marginalization. Although women have resisted their subordinate position of exploitation throughout the centuries, the roots of feminism [Vol. 2, p. 784]  as a social and intellectual movement are found in the European Enlightenment.

a. Although there are diverse articulations of feminism, feminists generally agree in their critique of masculine supremacy and hold that gender roles are socially constructed rather than innate. The “root experience”of feminism is women’s realization that cultural “common sense,”dominant perspectives, scientific theories, and historical knowledge are androcentric, i.e., male-biased, and therefore not objective but ideological. This breakthrough experience causes not only disillusionment and anger but also a sense of possibility and power.

Feminist analyses often utilize categories such as patriarchy, androcentrism or gender dualism as synonymous or overlapping concepts. Patriarchy is generally defined as gender dualism or as the domination and control of man over woman. Androcentrism refers to a linguistic structure and theoretical perspective in which man or male represents the human. Western languages such as Hebrew, Greek, German, or English—grammatically masculine languages that function as so-called generic languages—use the terms “male”or “human”as inclusive of “woman”and the pronoun “he”as inclusive of “she.”Man is the paradigmatic human, woman is the other.

Masculine and feminine are the two opposite or complementary poles in a binary gender system, which is asymmetric insofar as masculine is the primary and positive pole. Dualistic oppositions such as subject/object, culture/nature, law/chaos, orthodoxy/heresy, and man/woman, legitimate masculine supremacy and feminine inferiority. Franco-feminist criticism therefore has termed this structuring of man as the central reference point “phallocentrism,”understanding the phallus as a signifier of sociocultural authority.

The philosophical construction of reason positions elite Western man as the transcendent, universal subject with privileged access to truth and knowledge. The Western construction of reason and rationality has been conceived within the binary structure of male dominance as transcendence of the feminine. Femininity is constituted as an exclusion. In analogy to “woman”and the “feminine”the nature of subordinated and colonialized peoples is projected as the devalued other or the deficit opposite of elite Western man, rationalizing the exclusion of the “others”from the institutions of knowledge and culture.

b. In protest of this ideological construction feminist liberation movements around the globe unmask the universalist essentializing discourse on “Woman”and the colonialized “Other”as the totalizing discourse of the Western Man of Reason. Instead they insist on the specific historical-cultural contexts and subjectivity, as well as on the plurality, of “women.”

Women of color consistently maintain that an analysis of women’s exploitation and oppression only in terms of gender does not suffice, for it does not comprehend the complex systemic interstructuring of gender, race, class, and culture that determines women’s lives. Therefore, feminist hermeneutics must reconceptualize its categories of analysis. It has to distinguish between the categories of androcentrism or gender dualism as ideological obfuscations and legitimizations of elite male power on the one hand, and patriarchy in the strict sense of the word defined as a complex social system of male domination structured by racism, sexism, classism, and colonialism on the other hand. The system of Western patriarchal ideology was articulated centuries ago by Aristotle and Plato in their attempt to define the democratic polis, which restricted full citizenship to Greek, freeborn, propertied, male heads of household. Although cultural and religious patriarchy as a “master-centered”political and cultural system has been modified throughout the centuries its basic structures of domination and ideological legitimization are still operative today.

African-American feminists in religious studies, therefore, have introduced Alice Walker’s term “womanist”(i.e., feminist of color) to signal the fact that feminism is more than a political movement and theoretical perspective of white women. When we speak of Africans, Europeans, the poor, minorities, and women, we speak as if women do not belong to all the other groups mentioned. Yet the expression “women”includes not just white, elite, Western, middle- or upper-class women, as conventional language suggests, but all women. Whereas feminist scholarship has become skilled in detecting the androcentric language and patriarchal contextualizations of malestream theory and biblical interpretation, it does not always pay attention to its own inoculation with gender stereotypes, white supremacy, class prejudice, and theological confessionalism.

Jewish feminists in turn have pointed out that Christian feminists perpetuate the anti-Semitic discourse of otherness ingrained in Christian identity formation when they uncritically reproduce the anti-Jewish tendencies inscribed in Christian Scriptures and perpetrated by malestream biblical scholarship. This is the case, e.g., when Judaism is blamed for the “death of the Goddess”or when Jesus, the feminist, is set over and against patriarchal Judaism. It also would be the case if this article on “feminist hermeneutics”would be read as giving a descriptive and comprehensive account of feminist biblical hermeneutics as such, although it is written from a Christian but not from a Jewish or Islamic hermeneutical perspective. If feminist interpretation does not wish to continually reproduce its own internalized structures of oppression, it must bring into critical reflection the oppressive patriarchal contextualizations of contemporary discourses and those of the biblical writings themselves.

2. Feminist/Womanist Hermeneutics. While women have read the Scriptures throughout the centuries, a feminist/womanist hermeneutics as the theoretical exploration of biblical interpretation in the interest of women is of very recent vintage.

a. When one remembers Miriam, Hulda, Hanna, Mary Prisca, Felicitas, Proba, Macrina, Melania, Hildegard of Bingen, Margret Fell, Antoinette Brown, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jarena Lee, Katherine Bushnell, Margret Brackenbury Crook, Georgia Harkness, or Else Kähler, it becomes apparent that women have always interpreted the Bible. Moreover, books about Women in the Bible—mostly written by men—as well as studies of prescriptive biblical male texts about women’s role and place have been numerous throughout the centuries.

Biblical scholarship about women engages diverse historical, social, anthropological, psychological, or literary models of interpretation without analyzing their androcentric [Vol. 2, p. 785]  frameworks. In addition, it tends to adopt the scientific posture of “detached”inquiry that eschews feminist politics. Although such scholarship focuses on “women,”it reproduces and reinscribes the androcentric-patriarchal dynamics of the text as long as it does not question the androcentric character of biblical texts and reconstructive models.

Only in the context of the women’s movement in the last century, and especially in the past twenty years, have feminists begun to explore the implications and possibilities of a biblical interpretation that takes the androcentric or patriarchal character of Scripture into account. This exploration is situated within the context of both the academy and the church. Insofar as feminist analysis seeks to transform academic as well as ecclesial biblical interpretation, it has a theoretical and practical goal. This praxis-orientation locates feminist hermeneutics in the context of philosophical/theological hermeneutics as well as critical theory and liberation theology.

b. The technical term hermeneutics comes from the Greek word hermeneuein/hermeneia and means the practice and theory of interpretation. The expression was first used as a technical term for exegetical handbooks that dealt with philology, grammar, syntax, and style. Today the term exegesis is generally used to describe the rules and principles for establishing not only the philological, but also the historical sense, of biblical texts.

Hermeneutics, by contrast, explores the dialogical interaction between the text and the contemporary interpreter in which the subject matter of the text or the reference of discourse itself “comes-into-language.”It is not simply conveyed by, but manifested in and through, the language of the text. Understanding the meaning of texts emerges from a dialogical process between interpreter and text. This dialogical process presupposes a common pre-understanding of the subject matter of the text, since we cannot comprehend what is totally alien to our own experience and perception.

Biblical interpretation seeks to understand the text and its world as a rhetorical expression in a certain historical situation. Insofar as the interpreter always approaches biblical texts with certain preunderstandings, and from within a definite linguistic-historical tradition, the act of interpretation has to overcome the distance between the world of the text and that of the interpreter in a “fusion of horizons.”Interpretation has as its goal to establish agreement to and acceptance of the subject matter of the text. Understanding is achieved when the interpreter appropriates the ways of being human projected by the text. According to Gadamer the authority of the text has nothing to do with blind obedience, but rests on recognition (Anerkennung), because the subject matter of the text can be accepted in principle.

c. However, insofar as patriarchal ideology and systemic domination have been passed down through the medium of Christian Scriptures, feminist biblical interpretation does not only seek to understand but also to assess critically the meaning of androcentric texts and their sociopolitical functions. Although I have introduced the nomenclature “feminist hermeneutics”into the theological discussion, I have at the same time maintained that a critical feminist interpretation has to move beyond dialogical hermeneutics. It does not just aim at understanding biblical texts but also engages in theological critique, evaluation, and transformation of biblical traditions and interpretations from the vantage point of its particular sociopolitical religious location. Not to defend biblical authority but to articulate the theological authority of women is the main task of a critical feminist hermeneutics.

Insofar as hermeneutical theory insists on the linguisticality of all reality and on the sociohistorical conditioning of the act of interpretation, it is useful for womanist/feminist biblical interpretation. However, dialogical hermeneutics does not consider that classic texts and traditions are also a systematically distorted expression of communication under unacknowledged conditions of repression and violence. It therefore is not able to critique the androcentric, male-centered character of Western classics and texts, nor to problematize the patriarchal character of the “world of the text”and of our own. Even Ricoeur’s insistence on the restoration of the link between exegesis and hermeneutics as the dialectics between alienating distanziation and appropriating recognition cannot encompass the transformative aims of a critical feminist hermeneutics for liberation, because such a dialectics does not get hold of the “doubled vision”of feminist hermeneutics.

3. A Critical Feminist Hermeneutics of Liberation. Feminists/womanists have become conscious of women’s conflicting position within two contradictory discourses offered by society. Unconsciously women participate at one and the same time in the specifically “feminine”discourse of submission, inadequacy, inferiority, dependency, and irrational intuition on the one hand and in the “masculine”discourse of subjectivity, self-determination, freedom, justice, and equality on the other hand. If this participation becomes conscious, it allows the feminist/womanist interpreter to become a reader resisting the reifying power of the androcentric text.

a. The theoretical exploration of this contradictory position of women from the vantage point of an emancipatory standpoint makes it possible to “imagine”a different interpretation and historical reconstruction. For change to take place women and other nonpersons must concretely and explicitly claim as their very own those values and visions that Western Man has reserved for himself. Yet they can do so only to the extent that these values and visions foster the liberation of women who suffer from multiple oppressions.

This “doubled vision”of feminism leads to the realization that gender relations are neither natural nor divinely ordained but linguistically and socially constructed in the interest of patriarchal power relations. Androcentric language and texts, literary classics and visual art, works of science, anthropology, sociology, or theology do not describe and comprehend reality. Rather they are ideological constructs that produce the invisibility and marginality of women. Therefore a critical feminist interpretation insists on a hermeneutics of suspicion that can unmask the ideological functions of androcentric text and commentary. It does not do so because it assumes a patriarchal conspiracy of the biblical writers and their contemporary interpreters but because when reading grammatically masculine [Vol. 2, p. 786]  supposedly generic texts women do not, in fact, know whether they are meant or not.

b. The realization that women are socialized into the “feminine discourse”of their culture and thus are ideologically “scripted”and implicated in power relations engenders the recognition that women suffer also from “a false consciousness.”As long as they live in a patriarchal world of oppression, women are never fully “liberated.”However, this does not lead feminists to argue that historical agency and knowledge of the world are not possible. Western science, philosophy, and theology have not known the world as it is. Rather they have created it in their own interest and likeness as they wished it to be. Therefore, feminists/womanists insist that it is possible for liberatory discourses to articulate a different historical knowledge and vision of the world.

In order to do so feminist/womanist scholars utilize women’s experience of reality and practical activity as a scientific resource and a significant indicator of the reality against which hypotheses are to be tested. A critical feminist version of objectivity recognizes the provisionality and multiplicity of particular knowledges as situated and “embodied”knowledges. Knowledge is not totally relative, however. It is possible from the perspective of the excluded and dominated to give a more adequate account of the “world.”In short, womanists/feminists insist that women are “scripted”and at the same time are historical subjects and agents.

Therefore, a critical feminist/womanist hermeneutics seeks to articulate biblical interpretation as a complex process of reading for a cultural-theological praxis of resistance and transformation. To that end it utilizes not only historical and literary-critical methods which focus on the rhetoric of the text in its historical contexts, but also storytelling, bibliodrama, and ritual for creating a “different”feminist imagination.

 

B. Approaches and Methods

In conjunction with feminist literary criticism, critical theory, and historiography, four major hermeneutical strategies have been developed for such a critical process of interpretation.

1. Texts About Women. a. In pondering the absence of women’s experience and voice from biblical texts and history, a first strategy seeks to recover information about women and to examine what biblical texts teach about women. This analysis usually focuses on “key”women’s passages such as Genesis 1䃁; the biblical laws with regard to women; or on the Pauline and post-Pauline statements on women’s place and role. This selective approach was adopted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in The Woman’s Bible and has strongly influenced subsequent interpretations. Its “cutting up and cutting out”method isolates passages about women from their literary and historical contexts and interprets them “out of context.”

After having gathered the texts about women, scholars then catalog and systematize these texts and traditions in a dualistic fashion. They isolate positive and negative statements in order to point to the positive biblical tradition about woman. They isolate positive texts about women and the feminine from “texts of terror”that are stories of women’s victimization. All statements about woman and feminine imagery about God are cataloged as positive, ambivalent, or negative strands in Hebrew-Jewish and early Christian tradition. Negative elements are found in the Hebrew Bible as well as in the intertestamental and postbiblical writings of Judaism, whereas in the Christian tradition they are seen as limited to the writings of the Church Fathers. Such a biased classification favoring Christian over and against Jewish tradition engenders anti-Jewish attitudes and interpretations.

b. A second approach focuses on the women characters in the Bible. From its inception, feminist/womanist interpretation has sought to actualize these stories in role-playing, storytelling, and song. Whereas the retelling of biblical stories in midrash or legend is quite familiar to Jewish and Catholic women, it is often a new avenue of interpretation for Protestant women. Interpretations that focus on the women characters in the androcentric text invite readers to identify positively with the biblical women as the text presents them.

Since popular books on “the women of the Bible”often utilize biblical stories about women for inculcating the values of conservative womanhood, a feminist/womanist interpretation approaches these stories with a hermeneutics of suspicion. It critically analyzes not only their history of interpretation but also their function in the overall rhetoric of the biblical text. Such a critical interpretation questions the emotions they evoke and the values and roles they project before it can reimagine and retell them in a feminist/womanist key.

Within the African-American tradition of storytelling R. Weems, e.g., creatively reconstructs the “possible emotions and issues that motivated biblical women in their relation with each other”in order to draw “attention to the parallels between the plight of biblical women and women today.”Weems informs her reader that the only way she could “let the women speak for themselves”was to wrestle their stories from the presumably male narrators.

Although it is important to retell the biblical women’s stories, it is also necessary to reimagine biblical stories without women characters. In order to break the marginalizing tendencies of the androcentric text feminists/womanists have also to retell in a female voice and womanist perspective those stories that do not explicitly mention women.

c. A third approach seeks to recover works written by women in order to restore critical attention to female voices in the tradition. This work has restored many forgotten or obscured women writers. In early Christian studies scholars have, e.g., argued that the gospels of Mark and John were written by a woman evangelist or that Hebrews as authored by Prisca. Others have pointed out that at least half of the Lukan material on women must be ascribed to a special pre-Lukan source that may have owed its existence to a woman evangelist. While such a suggestion expands our historical-theological imagination, it does not critically explore whether the androcentric text communicates patriarchal values and visions, and if so to what degree. It fails to consider that women also have internalized androcentric stereotypes and therefore can reproduce the patriarchal politics of otherness in their speaking and writing.

 

d. Historical studies of women in the Bible or that of [Vol. 2, p. 787]  Jewish, Greek, or Roman women are generally topological studies that utilize androcentric texts and archaeological artifacts about women as source texts. They understand these sources as descriptive data about women in the biblical worlds and as “windows”to and “mirrors”of women’s reality in antiquity. Sourcebooks on women in the Greco-Roman world assemble in English translation literary documents as well as inscriptions and papyri about women’s religious activities in Greco-Roman antiquity. However, such source collections are in a certain sense precritical insofar as they obscure that androcentric texts are ideological constructions. They must be utilized with a hermeneutics of suspicion and placed within a feminist model of reconstruction.

Recognizing the absence or marginality of women in the androcentric text feminist historians have sought to articulate the problem of how to write women back into history, of how to capture the memory of women’s historical experience and contribution. The historian Joan Kelly has succinctly stated the dual goal of women’s history as both to restore women to history and to restore our history to women.

Feminist/womanist historical interpretation conceptualizes women’s history not simply as the history of women’s oppression by men but as the story of women’s historical agency, resistance, and struggles. Women have made sociocultural contributions and challenged dominant institutions and values as well as wielded destructive power and collaborated in patriarchal structure.

Feminist/womanist scholars in religion have begun to open up many new areas of research by asking different historical questions that seek to understand the socioreligious life-world of women in antiquity. What do we know about the everyday life of women in Israel, Syria, Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, or Rome? How did freeborn women, slave women, wealthy women, or businesswomen live? Could women read and write, what rights did they have, how did they dress, or which powers and influence did they gain through patronage? Or what did it mean for a woman of Corinth to join the Isis cult, the synagogue, or the Christian group? What did imprisonment mean for Junia, or how did Philippian women receive Luke-Acts?

Although many of these questions need still to be addressed and might never be answered, asking these questions has made it possible for instance to rediscover Sarah, the priestess, or to unearth the leadership of women in Judaism as well as in early Christianity, or to locate the household-code texts in Aristotelian political philosophy. However, insofar as such sociohistorical studies do not problematize the descriptive character of the androcentric source text as reflecting sociohistorical reality, they cannot break through the marginalizing ideological tendencies of the androcentric text.

2. Ideological Inscription and Reception. Whereas feminist historical interpretation tends to be caught up in the factual, objectivist, and antiquarian paradigm of biblical studies, literary-critical studies insist that we are not able to move beyond the androcentric text to the historical reality of women. They reject a positivist understanding of the biblical text as a transparent medium as reflecting historical reality or as providing historical data and facts.

a. Their first hermeneutical strategy attends to the ideological inscriptions of androcentric dualisms or the politics of gender in cultural and religious texts. The relationship between androcentric text and historical reality cannot be construed as a mirror image but must be decoded as a complex ideological construction. The silences, contradictions, arguments, prescriptions, and projections of the androcentric text as well as its discourses on gender, race, class, or culture must be unraveled as the ideological inscription of the patriarchal politics of otherness.

Feminist literary studies—be they formalist, structuralist, or narratological—carefully show how the androcentric text constructs the politics of gender and feminine representation. By tracing out the binary structures of a text or by focusing on the “feminine”character constructs (e.g., mother, daughter, bride) of biblical narratives, structuralist and deconstructionist readings run the risk of reinscribing rather than dislodging the dualistic gender politics of the text.

By laying out the androcentric bias of the text feminist literary criticism seeks to foster a hermeneutics of resistance to the androcentric politics of the canonical text. Such a feminist literary hermeneutics aims to deconstruct, debunk, and reject the biblical text. However, by refusing any possibility of a positive retrieval they reinscribe the totalizing dynamics of the androcentric texts that marginalize women and other nonpersons or eliminate them altogether from the historical record. Such a hermeneutics relinquishes the heritage of women be it cultural or religious, since not only the Bible but all cultural classics written in androcentric language contain such an androcentric politics. A critical feminist reading can only break the mold of the sacred androcentric text and its authority over us when it resists the androcentric directives and hierarchically arranged binary oppositions of the text, when it reads texts against “their androcentric grain.”

b. A second strategy of feminist reading shifts the attention from the androcentric text to the reading subject. Feminist reader-response criticism makes conscious the complex process of reading androcentric texts as a cultural practice. By showing how our gender affects the way we read, it underlines the importance of the reader’s particular sociocultural location. Reading and thinking in an androcentric symbol system forces readers to identify with what is culturally “male.”This intensifies women’s internalization of a cultural patriarchal system whose misogynist values alienate women from themselves.

The androcentric biblical text derives its seductive “power”from its generic aspirations. For instance, women can read stories about Jesus without giving any significance to the maleness of Jesus. However, theological emphasis on the maleness of Jesus reinforces women’s male identification and establishes Christian identity as a male identity in a cultural masculine/feminine contextualization. Focusing on the figure of Jesus, the Son of the Father, when reading the Bible “doubles”women’s oppression. Women not only suffer in the act of reading from the alienating division of self against self but also from the realization that to be female is not to be “divine”or “a son of God.”Recognizing these internalizing functions of androcentric Scriptural texts which in the liturgy are proclaimed as “word of God,”feminist/womanist theologians have insisted on an inclusive translation of the lectionary.

 

 

[Vol. 2, p. 788]

 

Women’s reading of generic androcentric biblical texts, however, does not always lead with necessity to the reader’s masculine identification. Women’s reading can deactivate masculine/feminine gender contextualization in favor of an abstract degenderized reading. Empirical studies have documented that so-called generic masculine language [“man,”pronoun “he”] is read differently by men and by women. Whereas men connect male images with such language, women do not connect images with the androcentric text but read it in an abstract fashion. This is possible because of the ambiguity of generic masculine language. In the absence of any clear contextual markers a statement such as “all men are created equal”can be understood as generic-inclusive or as masculine-exclusive.

When women recognize their contradictory ideological position in a generic androcentric language system they can become readers resisting the master-identification of the androcentric, racist, classist, or colonialist text. However, if this contradiction is not brought into consciousness, it cannot be exploited for change but leads to further self-alienation. For change to take place, women and other nonpersons must concretely and explicitly claim as our very own the human values and visions that the androcentric text ascribes to “generic”man. Yet once readers have become conscious of the oppressive rhetorical functions of androcentric language, they no longer are able to read “generically”but must insist on a feminist/womanist contextualization of interpretation as a liberating practice in the struggle to end patriarchal relations of exploitation that generate “the languages of oppression”and are legitimated by it.

 

3. A Critical Rhetorical Paradigm of Historical Reconstruction. A third approach seeks to overcome the methodological split between historical studies that understand their sources as windows to historical reality and literary-critical studies that tend to reinscribe the binary structures and dualistic constructions of the androcentric text. It does so by analyzing the rhetorical functions of the text as well as by articulating models for historical reconstruction that can displace the dualistic model of the androcentric text. It does not deny but recognizes that androcentric texts are produced in and by particular historical debates and struggles. It seeks to exploit the contradictions inscribed in the text for reconstructing not only the narrative “world of the biblical text”but also the sociohistorical worlds that have made possible the particular world construction of the text.

a. Such a critical feminist reconstruction, therefore, does not heighten the opposition of masculine/feminine inscribed in the androcentric text but seeks to dislodge it by focusing on the text as a rhetorical-historical practice. Androcentric texts produce the marginality and absence of women from historical records by subsuming women under masculine terms. How we read the silences of such unmarked grammatically masculine generic texts and how we fill in their blank spaces depends on their contextualization in historical and present experience.

Grammatically masculine language mentions women specifically only as a special case, as the exception from the rule or as a problem. Whereas grammatically masculine language means both women and men, this is not the case for language referring to women. Moreover, the texts about women are not descriptive of women’s historical reality and agency but only indicators of it. They signify the presence of women that is marginalized by the androcentric text. An historically adequate reading of such generic androcentric texts therefore would have to read grammatically masculine biblical texts as inclusive of women and men, unless a case can be made for an exclusive reading.

By tracing the defensive strategies of the androcentric text one can make visible not only what the text marginalizes or excludes but also show how the text shapes what it includes. Androcentric biblical texts tell stories and construct social worlds and symbolic universes that mythologize, reverse, absolutize, and idealize patriarchal differences and in doing so obliterate or marginalize the historical presence of the devalued “others”of their communities.

Androcentric biblical texts and interpretations are not descriptive of objective reality but they are persuasive and prescriptive texts that construct historical reality and its sources. Scholars have selected original manuscript readings, established the original text, translated it into English, and commented on biblical writings in terms of their own androcentric-patriarchal knowledge of the world. Androcentric tendencies that marginalize women can also be detected in the biblical writers’selection and redaction of traditional materials as well as in the selective canonization of texts. It is also evident in the use of the Bible in liturgy and theological discourse. As androcentric rhetorical texts, biblical texts and their interpretations construct a world in which those whose arguments they oppose become the “deviant others”or are no longer present at all. The categories of orthodoxy and heresy reinscribe such a patriarchal rhetoric.

Biblical texts about women are like the tip of an iceberg indicating what is submerged in historical silence. They have to be read as touchstones of the reality that they repress and construct at the same time. Just as other texts so also are biblical texts sites of competing discourses and rhetorical constructions of the world. We are able to disclose and unravel “the politics of otherness”constructed by the androcentric text, because it is produced by an historical reality in which “the absent others”are present and active.

A feminist/womanist interpretation is able to unmask the politics of the text, because women participate not only in the androcentric discourse of marginalization and subordination but also in the democratic discourse of freedom, self-determination, justice, and equality. Insofar as this “humanistic”discourse has been constituted as elite “male”discourse the reality to which it points is at the same time already realized and still utopian. It has to be imagined differently. Such “imagination”is, however, not pure fantasy but historical imagination because it refers to a reality that has been accomplished not only in discourse but also in the practices and struggles of “the subjugated others.”

b. The second strategy elaborates models of historical reconstruction that can subvert the androcentric dynamics of the biblical text and its interpretations by focusing on the “reality”that the androcentric text marginalizes and silences. One has to take the texts about women out of [Vol. 2, p. 789]  their androcentric historical source contexts and reassemble them like mosaic stones in a feminist/womanist model of historical reconstruction that does not recuperate the marginalizing tendencies of the text.

A critical feminist reconstructive model, therefore, aims not only to reconstruct women’s history in early Christianity but seeks also a feminist reconstruction of early Christian origins. To that end it cannot limit itself to the canonical texts but must utilize all available texts and materials.

Another strategy questions androcentric models of interpretation that interpret early Christian origins, e.g., in terms of the split between the public and private spheres. This model renders women’s witness to the resurrection and their leadership in the early Christian movements “unofficial”or distorts it to fit “feminine”cultural roles. Another strategy looks at economic and social status, at domestic and political structures, at legal prescriptions, cultic prohibitions, and religious organizations. However, reconstructions of the social world often uncritically adopt sociological or anthropological models of interpretation without testing them for their androcentric ideological implications.

The strategy of a “negative”mirror image which constructs early Christian women’s history in contrast to that of Jewish women or Greco-Roman and Asian women in the first century is not only biased but also methodologically inadequate. Instead, a feminist reconstruction must elaborate emancipatory tendencies in Greco-Roman antiquity that made it possible for the early Christian movements to stand in critical tension to their dominant patriarchal society. It must identify institutional formations that have enabled the active participation of women and other nonpersons.

Finally, a critical feminist/womanist reconstruction does not take the texts indicating the gradual adaptation of the early Christian movement to its dominant patriarchal culture as descriptive of historical reality. Rather it understands them as rhetorical arguments about the patriarchal “politics of submission.”They do not reflect “what really happened,”but construct prescriptive arguments for what the authors wished would happen. This applies not only to biblical texts but also to those “parallel”texts that are cited for the “depraved status”of Jewish or Greco-Roman women.

In short, in a critical model early Christian history is reconstructed not from the perspective of the “historical winners”but from that of the “silenced”in order to achieve an historically adequate description of the social worlds of early Christian women and men. The objectivity and reliability of scientific historical reconstructions must therefore be assessed in terms of whether and how much they can make present the historical losers and their arguments, how much they can make visible those who have been made “doubly invisible”in androcentric sources.

Feminist/womanist historiography, therefore, understands itself not as antiquarian science but as engaged inquiry since it seeks to retrieve women’s history as memory and heritage for the present and the future. Insofar as reconstructions of the past are always done in the interest of the present and the future, a critical reconstruction of early Christian history as the history of those who have struggled against hegemonic patriarchal structures seeks to enpower those who today engage in the struggle to end patriarchy.

 

D. Theological Hermeneutics

Both sides in the often bitter struggles for ecclesial leadership and full citizenship of freeborn women, for emancipation of slave women and men, and for the survival of poor women and their children have invoked biblical authority to legitimate their claims. Consequently, a feminist theological hermeneutics has centered around the question of Scriptural authority.

Several hermeneutical positions have crystallized in confrontation with biblical authority claims. The first rejects the Bible because of its patriarchal character. The Bible is not the word of God but that of elite men justifying their patriarchal interests. The opposite argument insists that the Bible must be “depatriarchalized”because, correctly understood, it fosters the liberation of women. A middle position concedes that the Bible is written by men and rooted in a patriarchal culture but nevertheless maintains that some biblical texts, traditions, or at least the basic core, essence, or central principle of the Bible are liberating and stand in critique of patriarchy.

1. Biblical Apologetics. Historically and today the Bible has functioned as a weapon against women in their struggles for access to public speaking, to theological education, or to ordained ministry. In response a Christian feminist apologetics asserts that the Bible, correctly understood, does not prohibit but rather authorizes the equal rights and liberation of women. A feminist hermeneutics therefore has the task to elaborate this correct understanding of the Bible so that its authority can be claimed.

However, insofar as historical-critical scholarship has elaborated the rich diversity and often contradictory character of biblical texts, it has shown that taken as a whole the canon cannot constitute an effective theological norm. Therefore it becomes difficult to sustain the traditional understanding that the canon forms a doctrinal unity which in all its parts possesses equal authority and which in principle rules out theological inconsistencies.

Feminists who feel bound by this understanding of canonical authority propose three different hermeneutical strategies. A loyalist hermeneutics argues that biblical texts about women can be explained in terms of a hierarchy of truth. Whereas traditionalists argue that the household code texts require the submission and subordination of women or that Gal 3:28 must be understood in light of them, evangelical feminists hold that Ephesians 5 requires mutual submission and that the injunctions to submission must be judged in light of the canonical authority of Gal 3:28.

A second strategy is revisionist. It makes a distinction between historically conditioned texts that speak only to their own time and those texts with authority for all times. For instance, the injunction of 1 Cor 11:2蝼to wear a head covering or a certain hairstyle is seen as time-conditioned whereas Gal 3:28 pronounces the equality of women and men for all times.

A third approach is compensatory. It challenges the overwhelmingly androcentric language and images of the Bible by pointing to the feminine images of God found throughout the sacred writings of Judaism and Christianity. It [Vol. 2, p. 790]  uncritically embraces the divine female figure of Wisdom or the feminine character of the Holy Spirit in order to legitimate the use of feminine language for God and the Holy Spirit today.

2. A Feminist Canon. Recognizing the pervasive androcentric character of biblical texts, other feminists isolate an authoritative essence or central principle that biblically authorizes equal rights and liberation struggles. Such a liberation hermeneutics does not aim to dislodge the authority of the Bible but to reclaim the empowering authority of Scripture over and against conservative, right-wing, biblical antifeminism.

A first strategy seeks to identify an authoritative canon within the canon, a central principle or the “gospel message.”Since it is generally recognized that the Bible is written in androcentric language and rooted in patriarchal cultures, such a normative center of Scripture allows one to claim biblical authority while rejecting the accusation that the Bible is an instrument of oppression. Feminist biblical and liberation theological scholarship has not invented but inherited this search for an authoritative “canon within the canon”from historical-theological exegesis that recognizes the historical contingency and contradictory pluriformity of Scripture but nevertheless maintains the normative unity of the Bible.

Just as male liberation theologians stress God’s liberating acts in history or single out the Exodus or Jesus’salvific deeds as “canon within the canon,”so feminist liberation theologians have sought to identify God’s intention for a mended creation, the prophetic tradition or the prophetic critical principle as the authoritative biblical norm. However, such a strategy reduces the historical particularity and pluriformity of biblical texts to a feminist “canon within the canon”or a liberating formalized principle.

The debate continues in feminist hermeneutics as to whether such a feminist normative criterion must be derived from or at least correlated with the Bible so that Scripture remains the normative foundation of feminist biblical faith and community.

Some would argue that the Bible becomes authoritative in the hermeneutical dialogue between the ancient world that produced the text, the literary world of the text, and the world of the modern reader. Yet such a position rejects any criteria extrinisic to the biblical text for evaluating the diverse, often contradictory biblical voices. Instead it maintains that the Bible contains its own critique. It points, for instance, to the vision of a transformed creation in Isa 11:6䃇as a criterion intrinsic to Scripture. The principle of “no harm”—“they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain”—is the normative criterion for assessing biblical texts. However, this approach does not critically reflect that it is the interpreter who selects this criterion and thereby gives it normative canonical status.

A second strategy recognizes that a feminist critical norm is not articulated by the biblical text. However, it insists that a correlation can be established between the feminist critical norm and that by which the Bible critiques itself and renews its liberating vision over and against corrupting deformations. Such a feminist hermeneutics correlates, for instance, the feminist critical principle of the full humanity of women with the prophetic-messianic critical principle or dynamics by which the Bible critiques itself. However, such a hermeneutics of correlation reduces the particularity and diversity not only of biblical texts but also of feminist articulations to abstract formalized principle and norm. It neglects biblical interpretation as the site of competing discursive practices and struggles.

A third hermeneutical strategy argues that feminists must create as a new textual base a feminist Third Testament that canonizes women’s experiences of God’s presence. Out of their revelatory experiences of agony and victimization, survival, empowerment, and new life women write new canonical stories. Such a proposal recognizes women’s experiences of struggle and survival as places of divine presence. Just as the androcentric texts of the First and Second Testaments reflecting male experience, so also the stories rooted in women’s experience deserve canonical status. However, such a canonization of women’s stories rescribes cultural-theological male-female dualism as canonical dualism. Just like canonized male texts, so also are women’s texts embedded and structured by patriarchal culture and religion. Consequently both must be subjected to a process of critical evaluation.

3. Critical Process of Interpretation. A critical feminist hermeneutics of liberation therefore abandons the quest for a liberating canonical text and shifts its focus to a discussion of the process of biblical interpretation that can grapple with the oppressive as well as the liberating functions of particular biblical texts in women’s lives and struggles.

Such a critical process of feminist/womanist interpretation for liberation presupposes feminist conscientization and systemic analysis. Its interpretive process has four key moments. It begins with a hermeneutics of suspicion scrutinizing the presuppositions and interests of interpreters, and those of biblical commentators as well as the androcentric strategies of the biblical text itself. A hermeneutics of historical interpretation and reconstruction works not only in the interest of historical distanziation but also for an increase in historical imagination. It displaces the androcentric dynamic of the text and its contexts by recontextualizing the text in a sociopolitical model of reconstruction that can make the subordinated and marginalized “others”visible.

A hermeneutics of ethical and theological evaluation assesses the oppressive or liberatory tendencies inscribed in the text as well as the functions of the text in historical and contemporary situations. It insists for theological reasons that Christians stop preaching patriarchal texts as the “word of God,”and cease to proclaim the Christian God as legitimating patriarchal oppression. Finally, a hermeneutics of creative imagination and ritualization retells biblical stories and celebrates our biblical foresisters in a feminist/womanist key.

Since such a critical process of interpretation aims not just to understand biblical texts but to change biblical religion, it requires a theological reconception of the Bible as a formative root model rather than as a normative archetype of Christian faith and community. As a root model, the Bible informs but does not provide the articulation of criteria for a critical feminist/womanist evaluation of particular in the interest of liberation. Christian identity that is grounded in the Bible as its formative prototype must in ever new readings be deconstructed and [Vol. 2, p. 791]  reconstructed in terms of a global praxis for the liberation not only of women but of all other nonpersons.

Such a proposal does not abandon the canon as some critics have charged. It also cannot be characterized as extrinsic to the text, insofar as it works with the notion of inspiration. Inspiration is a much broader concept than canonical authority insofar as it is not restricted to the canon but holds that throughout the centuries the whole Church has been inspired and empowered by the Spirit. The NT writings did not become canonical because they were believed to be uniquely inspired; rather they were judged to be inspired because the Church gave them canonical status. Inspiration—the life-giving breath and power of Sophia-Spirit—has not ceased with canonization but is still at work today in the critical discernment of the spirits. It empowers women and others excluded from ecclesial authority to reclaim as Church their theological authority of biblical interpretation and spiritual validation.

The “canon within the canon”or the hermeneutics of correlation locates authority formally if not always materially in the Bible, thereby obscuring its own process of finding and selecting theological norms and visions either from the Bible, tradition, doctrine, or contemporary life. In contrast, a critical evaluative hermeneutics makes explicit that it takes its theological authority from the experience of God’s liberating presence in today’s struggles to end patriarchal relationships of domination. Such divine Presence manifests itself when people acknowledge the oppressive and dehumanizing power of the patriarchal interstructuring of sexism, racism, economic exploitation, and militarist colonialism and when Christians name these destructive systems theologically as structural “sin”and “heresy.”For this process of naming we will find many resources in the Bible but also in many other religious, cultural, and intellectual traditions.

Understanding the act of critical reading as a moment in the global praxis for liberation compels a critical feminist hermeneutics to decenter the authority of the androcentric text and to take control of its own readings. It deconstructs the politics of otherness inscribed in the text and our own readings in order to retrieve biblical visions of salvation and well-being in the interest of the present and the future.

 

Bibliography , P., ed. 1988. The Bible, Theology and Feminist Approaches. Int 42/1: 3螴., M. 1987. Lethal Love. Feminist Literary Readings of Biblical Love Stories. Bloomington, IN., B. 1982. Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue. Chico, CA., C. V. 1987. Female Voice, Written Word: Women and Authority in Hebrew Scripture. Pp. 97䪩in Embodied Love, eds., Cooey, P. M.; Farmer, S. A.; and Ross, M. E. San Francisco., K. G., and Schüssler Fiorenza, E. 1989. Interpretation for Liberation. Semeia 47. Atlanta., R. S. 1989. The Power to Speak. Feminism, Language, God. New York., N. 1987. Feminist Reading of the Hebrew Bible: Affirmation, Resistance and Transformation. JSOT 39: 77蟃., E. 1989. Marginalization, Antiquity, Silencing: The Story of Jephthah’s Daughter. JFSR 5/1: 35螚., J. A. 1987. Women’s Studies and the Hebrew Bible. Pp. 141螬in The Future of Biblical Studies: The Hebrew Scriptures, eds. R. E. Friedman and H. G. M. Williamson. Atlanta., K. L., ed. 1988. Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism. In Studies in Antiquity and Christianity. Philadelphia., R., ed. 1988. Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics. A Sourcebook on Women’s Religion in the Greco-Roman World. Philadelphia.

———. 1983. Women in the Religions of the Greco-Roman World. RSR 9: 127螓., P. J. 1989. The Patriarchal Stamp of Scripture. JFSR 5/1: 17螎., V. R. 1983. The Divine Feminine. The Biblical Imagery of God as Female. New York.Wendel, E. 1983. The Women Around Jesus. New York., C. 1988. Discovering Eve. New York., E. 1988. Adam, Eve and the Serpent. New York., J. 1989. Standing Again at Sinai. Rethinking Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. San Francisco.Smith, M. 1989. In Her Own Rites. Nashville., S. 1987. Standing Toward the Text. TToday 43: 552螥., L. M., ed. 1985. Feminist Interpretation of the Bible. Philadelphia.

———. 1976. The Liberating Word. A Guide to Nonsexual Interpretation of the Bible. Philadelphia., J. 1989a. Biblical Interpretation and Critical Commitment. StTh 43: 5蝾.

———. 1989b. Text and Reality. Reality as Text: The Problem of a Feminist Historical and Social Reconstruction Based on Texts. StTh 40: 19螎.

———. 1987. Theological Criteria and Hermeneutical Reconstruction: Martha and Mary (Lk 10:38螖). Protocol 53. Berkeley.üssler Fiorenza, E. 1985. Bread Not Stone. The Challenge of Feminist Biblical Interpretation. Boston.

———. 1983. In Memory of Her. A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins. New York., E. Cady. 1974. The Woman’s Bible. Repr. Seattle., E. 1988. Women’s Rereading of Her Bible. Pp. 173螼in With Passion and Compassion: Third World Women Doing Theology, eds. V. Fabella and M. Oduyoye. Maryknoll, NY., M. A., ed. 1983. The Bible and Feminist Hermeneutics. Semeia 28. Atlanta., P. 1984. Texts of Terror. Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives. Philadelphia., P., ed. 1982. The Effects of Women’s Studies on Biblical Studies. JSOT 22: 3螴.

———. 1978. God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality. Philadelphia.

———. 1984. Black Women in Antiquity. New Brunswick, NJ., R. 1988. Just a Sister Away. San Diego., J. R. 1980. Chattel or Person. The Status of Women in the Mishnah. New York.Collins, A., ed. 1985. Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Scholarship. Atlanta.

ELISABETH SCHUÜSSLER FIORENZA

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On Felix’s return to Rome, his brother Pallas, a favorite of Nero’s, is said to have saved him from Jewish charges of maladministration (Ant. 20. 182).
HELEN K. BOND
Fellowship. See COMMUNION.
Feminist Interpretation. Feminist interpretation makes gender and gender relations a central subject matter of biblical interpretation. A feminist is someone who adheres to or advocates feminism. Feminism is a political stance that claims that the full humanity of women makes them equal to men; it therefore advocates for legal, political, and economic equal rights for women and for the full inclusion of women in all levels of leadership within society. Feminism critiques and resists social systems and structures that deny, diminish, suppress, or subordinate women’s full humanity. As a liberation movement, it calls for the transformation of relationships and society. This emphasis on liberation originates outside the Bible in women’s experiences of subjugation and struggles for emancipation, although it also has a foundation in the Bible. The creation of both male and female in the image of God (Gen 1:26- 27), the story of the liberation of the oppressed Hebrews from slavery (Exod 1 – 15), the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on “both men and women” (Acts 2:18), and Paul’s assertion that in Christ there is “neither male nor female” (Gal 3:3- 28) are texts that provide a vision of relationships between men and women.
Feminist interpretation, therefore, approaches the biblical text from this political stance and queries both the biblical text and interpretations of the biblical text as to whether they promote or deny women’s liberation and well- being. Feminist interpretation recognizes that one’s experiences as a gendered being makes a difference in interpretation. Therefore, gender analysis, a systemic analysis of how the text constructs masculinity and femininity, is a foundational element of feminist interpretation. A central concern is to privilege women’s experiences, voices, values, concerns, and differences.
It is common to speak of multiple feminisms or feminist interpretations for two reasons. First, feminist interpretation is not itself a method of interpretation, but is engaged with various critical interpretive approaches including, but not limited to, canonical, ideological, narrative, reader response, rhetorical, social scientific, and text criticisms. Second, feminist interpretation has increasingly recognized that women’s lives consist of intersecting identities and thus acknowledges other forms of oppression. Critiques of particular feminist interpretations arise when exclusive focus on gender and sexism overlooks or diminishes the significance of other systems of dominance. Gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, class, physical abilities, education, nationality, and colonialism or imperialism are also forms of dominance that oppress those who are Other than the dominant identity. Women committed to feminism, but who also experience other forms of oppression, developed other interpretive strategies including Jewish feminist, lesbian, mujerista, postcolonial, and womanist interpretation.
There is no single way to categorize the results of feminist interpretation nor can they all be enumerated here. Two important emphases have been recovery and challenge to patriarchy. Projects of recovery have been central because women’s experience of invisibility and marginalization makes them aware of the absence of women in biblical interpretation. The most direct recovery involves identifying stories and texts about women in the Bible. The recovery of both named and unnamed women such as Shiphrah and Puah (Exod 1:15- 22), Jephthah’s daughter (Judg 11), the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:25- 30) and Junia (Rom 16:7) makes evident the presence of women in the text and their significance for the histories of Judaism and Christianity. This also includes identifying texts that portray God using female imagery, e. g., Isa 42:14; Luke 15:8- 10. Recovery more broadly undertakes feminist historical reconstruction where the aim is to place women in the center of the histories of ancient Israel and Christianity. Focus is placed on the social roles fulfilled by women within the biblical text such as wife, mother, priest, and prophet. Another focus describes a particular time, movement, or group such as the role of women in households in Israel or in the early Jesus movement. This often requires going beyond the canonical text to include extra- canonical and cross- cultural research.
Women’s experiences of oppression make the study and understanding of the role of patriarchy a central concern. Patriarchy refers to the systems of legal, social, economic, and political relations that validate and enforce the sovereignty of male heads of families over dependent persons in the household. Feminist interpretation has made it clear that the Bible came into being in patriarchal societies, cultures, and religions and is written in masculine- centered language and serves patriarchal interests. If patriarchy is a defining feature of the biblical text and ancient cultures, then a critical concern is to identify and challenge what in the text has encouraged or allowed men’s exploitation of women throughout history. A significant challenge has been to “texts of terror” that portray physical and sexual violence against women, e. g., Judg 19 – 21; 2 Sam 13:11- 14; Ezek 16. Many studies have demonstrated the intertwining of the Bible, sexual violence, and patriarchal gender constructs. A related task is to analyze where patriarchal bias appears in interpretations and to challenge where interpretations may be more oppressive to women than the biblical text itself.
Two other issues in feminist interpretation are translation and appropriation. The issue of translation is how to render gendered source languages. The exclusive use in the Bible of masculine forms for God functions to engender God only as male. Masculine plural forms in the source language, such as “brothers,” may obscure the presence of women in a group. Should the translator highlight the patriarchal norms of the language or change them to make the text more inclusive?
Appropriation concerns biblical authority. Feminist interpreters recognize that the same text that has oppressed also inspires and authorizes women and men in their struggles for full humanity. Feminist interpretation rejects claiming as Word of God or authoritative Scripture a text identified as oppressive. Some feminist interpreters reject all biblical material outright, while others, through different strategies, find ways the Bible is still useful and authoritative. One strategy is feminist midrash, which retells biblical stories in ways that promote egalitarian and nonhierarchical paradigms. See BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION, HISTORY OF; GENDER STUDIES; IDEOLOGICAL CRITICISM; JEWISH BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION; LATINO- LATINA INTERPRETATION; LESBIAN INTERPRETATION; MUJERISTA INTERPRETATION; PATRIARCHAL LANGUAGE; POST- COLONIAL BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION; READER RESPONSE CRITICISM; RHETORICAL CRITICISM, NT; RHETORICAL CRITICISM, OT; SOCIAL SCIENTIFIC CRITICISM, NT; SOCIAL SCIENTIFIC CRITICISM, OT; TEXT CRITICISM, NT; TEXT CRITICISM, OT; WOMANIST INTERPRETATION. Bibliography:Bible and Culture Collective. “Feminist and Womanist Criticism.” The Postmodern Bible (1995) 225–271; Musa W. Dube. Postcolonial Feminist Interpretation of the Bible (2000); Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. Wisdom’s Ways:Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation (2001).
NANCY R. BOWEN
 
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#3 Dan Francis

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 06:21 PM

I thought I should give you a Biblical defence to compare too... First fruits is what I choose....

 

FIRST FRUITS [Heb bikku®rˆîm, re}s¥ˆît; Gk aparche]. In the OT, “first fruits”most often is used to refer to a literal portion of the agricultural harvest. Two Hebrew words are rendered “first fruits.”The first is bikku®rˆîm, which specifically refers to first-ripe grain and fruit, which was harvested and offered to the Lord according to sacerdotal prescriptions. This term always appears in the masculine plural and it may refer generally to the first produce of the soil (Exod 23:16, 19; 34:26; Num 28:16; Neh 10:35; 13:31) or specifically to wheat (Exod 34:22) or the products of grain (dough, Ezek 44:30, or loaves of bread, Lev 23:17; 23:20), to fruits in general (Num 18:13; Ezek 44:30), to figs (Nah 3:12), or to grapes (Num 13:20); sometimes it simply indicates “early ripe”(Lev 2:14; 2 Kgs 4:42). The second is re}s¥ˆît, which is usually translated “first”or “beginning”of a series. In a special sense, it can mean “choicest”; the substantive based on this idea is translated   “first fruits,”with specific reference to processed produce rather than produce in the raw state. This term specifically refers to dough (Num 15:20, 21; Ezek 44:30; Neh 10:38 [37]) or grain (Lev 23:10; Deut 18:4; 2 Chr 31:5), to new wine (Deut 18:4; 2 Chr 31:5), to oil (Deut 18:4; 2 Chr 31:5), to honey (2 Chr 31:5), to “all the produce of the land”(2 Chr 31:5), to “the fruit of every tree”(Neh 10:38), and even to wool (Deut 18:4). In addition to its literal meaning, the word is figuratively applied to Israel, the first fruits of Yahweh’s harvest (Jer 2:3). Several times (Exod 23:19; 34:26; Ezek 44:30), the two terms are used together, meaning something like “the first of the first fruits.”

Because Yahweh is sovereign and because of his possession of all things, the first issue of man, beast, and soil were considered holy unto the Lord. Provision was made for the redemption of the firstborn of people and animals (Exod 13:2蝼; Num 3:12蝼). The offerings of first fruits provided the redemption of the harvest. The postexilic Jewish community acknowledged that the priests had to “bring the first fruits of our ground and the first fruits of all the fruit of every tree to the house of the Lord annually, and bring to the house of our God the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks as it is written in the law”(Neh 10:36, 37—Eng 10:35, 36). These offerings were given to the Lord as a thanksgiving offering and for the support of the priesthood, for the priests received the entirety of the first fruits, except for the cereal offering of Lev 14:14蝼.

As a part of the celebration of Passover, Lev 23:10蝺(and Exod 23:16, 19) prescribes the waving of a sheaf of first fruits before Yahweh to acknowledge the dedication of the grain harvest; this was a public ceremony performed on behalf of the nation. This initial sheaf was of barley, for barley ripens earlier than wheat (cf. the Gezer calendar: “His month is barley harvest. His month is wheat-harvest and festival [“festival”refers to Pentecost]”; see further ANET 321). Flavius Josephus (Ant 3.10.5) affirms that this was indeed a sheaf of barley. No additional harvest work could be accomplished before this ceremony was enacted. The second public occasion involving first fruits occurred seven weeks later, at Pentecost, when the first fruits of the wheat harvest were presented, as specified in Exod 34:22. At this time, “the bread of the first fruits,”which was made from the initial wheat harvest, was offered; in Num 28:26, Pentecost is designated “the day of the first fruits.”

In addition to these public events, there were individual offerings, offered by the head of each family. Fairly detailed liturgical instructions for these individual offerings of first fruits in the land are given in Deut 26:1蝷. The worshiper placed the first fruits in a basket. He then proceeded to the place prescribed by Yahweh, reporting to the officiating priest, “I declare this day to the Lord my God that I have entered the land which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.”At that point, the priest accepted the basket and placed it before the altar. Then the worshiper would avow, “My father was a wandering Aramaean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation. And the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and imposed hard labor on us. Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders; and He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”It would seem that the worshiper has at some point resumed possession of the basket, for he continues, “And now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which Thou, O Lord, hast given me.”With these words, the worshiper himself presents the basket before the altar and worships with rejoicing.

Whereas OT occurrences of “first fruits”all refer to a literal offering or a portion of the harvest (except for the metaphorical usage in Jer 2:3), the NT usage of aparche (“beginning”) is exclusively figurative. The figure is based on the agricultural or ritual fact. Just as literal first fruits are a harbinger and sample of the full harvest, the presence of the Holy Spirit with the believer is an indication of that which is to come (Rom 8:23), Christians are the first fruits of God’s people (Jas 1:18 and probably 2 Thess 2:13), and those who follow the Lamb are the first fruits to God (Rev 14:4). Just as literal first fruits are first in sequence, Epaenetus is the first fruits of the Christians in Asia, and the household of Stephanus is the first fruits of the Christians in Achaia. Combining the ideas of the harbinger and first in sequence, Christ, in his resurrection, is the “first fruits of those that slept.”Just as the ritual called for a heave offering of the “first fruits”of a batch of dough (Num 15:20) and the holiness of the first piece of dough assures the holiness of the entire lump, believing Jews are a sample pointing to a much greater yield (Rom 11:16).

 , A. 1958. The Temple—Its Ministry and Services. Grand Rapids., G. 1972. History of Israelite Religion. Trans. D. E. Green. Nashville., T. C. 1963. The Religion of Ancient Israel. Philadelphia.

RICHARD O. RIGSBY

 

Freedman, David Noel, ed. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. Accordance electronic edition, version 3.6. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

 

Jessica Tinklenberg DeVega
First Fruits [בִּכּוּרִים bikkurim, רֵאשִׁית reʾshith; ἀπαρχή aparchē]. Two words in the OT bikkurim and reʾshith, correspond to the English term “first fruits.” They appear separately and in combination (and sometimes with the word fruit [peri פְּרִי]) to refer to the first portion of grain (Deut 18:4), fruit (Neh 10:38), oil and vegetable harvests (2 Chr 31:5), and the first (or best) of batches of dough (Num 15:20- 21), wine, and honey (2 Chr 31:5). The related term, bekhor (בְּכוֹר) denotes the FIRSTBORN among Israel’s human and animal populations.
The terms are used in three distinct ways. One cluster of references denotes the offering accompanying celebrations of the feasts of Passover and of Weeks or Pentecost (see PASSOVER AND FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD; WEEKS, FEAST OF). Exodus 23:16 requires the presentation of the first fruits of the first harvest before the Lord as a wave offering at Passover (compare Lev 23:16). Presumably this was a sheaf of barley, since it was the first crop to ripen (compare the Gezer Calendar [ANET 321]). The second festal occasion for presenting first fruits is the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost); here the offering must be wheat in accord with the normal agricultural calendar (Exod 34:22; compare Num 28:26, where the day of offering is referred to as the “day of first fruits”).
Another group of references to first fruits requires their offering to the Lord without connection to a particular feast. Grouped with three negative sacrificial stipulations (not to mix the blood of a sacrifice with leavened goods, leave the “fat of the festivals” until morning, or boil a kid in its mother’s milk), there is a straightforward command to provide as an offering to God “the choicest (reʾshit) of the first fruits (bikkurim)” (Exod 23:18- 19; 34:26; compare Lev 2:12, 14; 23:10; Deut 26:2).
A third cluster of references demands that first fruits be given to the priests and/or Levites for their sustenance (Num 15:20- 21; 18:12- 13; Deut 18:4; Neh 10:38 [Heb. 10:37]; 12:44; 13:31; Ezek 44:30). Whether such offerings are different from the first two kinds of first fruit gifts described above, or are the same ones, is not entirely clear from a straightforward reading of the text (see SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS).
Of course, reading the references to first fruits or to the “first of the first fruits,” according to various theories of the Pentateuch’s compositional history, might provide some solution to the latter quandary (as well as others relating to the proper calendrical reckoning for occasions of first fruit offering), but with little firm result since the references are well mixed among the usual “sources” including the Yahwist, Deuteronomic, and Priestly strata (see J, YAHWIST; D, DEUTERONOMIC, DEUTERONOMISTIC; P, PRIESTLY WRITERS). In fact, one might expect the Priestly passages to be most concerned with the delivery of offerings into the sacerdotal leadership’s hands, but that is not the case. The precise relationship among these three ways of conceiving of first fruits thus remains open to interpretation. So it is not surprising that in early Jewish literature there are implicit reflections on some of these questions, as well as explicit expansions on the notion of first fruit offerings (see, e. g., the introduction of a festival of the first fruits of wine in 11Q19 XI–XXI, 10 [compare Jub. 7:1- 6; 1QapGen XII, 13–16; T. Levi 9:14]).
In addition to the first fruits listed above, Exod 13:2- 16 requires that the firstborn of any womb, human or animal, be dedicated to God; along with Num 3:12- 16 the latter passage provides for the redemption of the firstborn, allotting in particular the Levites to God’s service as a replacement for the firstborn male of all Israelite families.
Quite apart from an inventory of the uses of the term “first fruits,” the hermeneutical key for understanding the phenomenon of first fruits and firstborn in Israelite religion is perhaps a prophetic text, Jer 2:3. There Israel is described as the first fruits of the Lord’s harvest, and in turn as holy to God, sacred in a way that the rest of creation is not apart from God’s designation. Read in light of this equation of holiness with the status of being first fruits the rest of the OT’s statements on the latter topic take on a more substantial meaning as offerings to God:they are the part of the fullness of creation that mark all the rest as belonging to God as well (compare Rom 11:16).
New Testament uses of the term are exclusively metaphorical:according to Rom 8:23 the Holy Spirit provides the first fruits of the spirit (see FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT), and in 11:16 the holiness of the first of a batch of dough is used to signal that the whole must be holy as well (compare Num 15:20- 21). In a discourse on resurrection Paul describes Jesus resurrected as the first fruit of God’s plan to raise all to new life (1 Cor 15:20, 23). Second Thessalonians 2:13 names the letter’s recipients as the ones God chose to be the first fruits of salvation (compare Jas 1:18; Rev 14:4).
ROBERT KUGLER


#4 Matthew Burgess

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 08:38 PM

Although they're often used together, these two dictionaries are different in their contents and scope, so it's a bit like comparing apples and oranges. Furthermore, in light of their size and complexity, it's hard to accurately characterize them in just a few words. But if your primary interests are theological, I would recommend NIDB. Generally speaking, I think it's more "theological" in its trajectory, while AYBD is more "academic."

With that said, my personal preference is also for AYBD.  ;)


Edited by Matthew Burgess, 08 January 2014 - 08:32 PM.


#5 Guntis

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 06:46 PM

Thank you! It looks like I want both! :-))(
“Teach the way of God in Accordance” (Matt 12:14, NIV-Accordance edition)
“Those who live in Accordance (with the Spirit) have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Rom 8:5, NIV-Accordance edition)

#6 Dan Francis

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 07:26 PM

I think that is a wise decision... Hope you enjoy them both when you get them.

 

-Dan 



#7 davidmedina

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 09:41 PM

Dan, in the first fruit example, which one is the AYBD and the NIDB? I a confused.


"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom. 12:2
 
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#8 Matthew Burgess

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 09:46 PM

The first example is from AYBD.

#9 davidmedina

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Posted 06 January 2014 - 09:48 PM

Would you say the AYBD is more comprehensive?


"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom. 12:2
 
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#10 Dan Francis

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 12:46 AM

I showed 

 

Liberation was from NIDB

First feminist was from AYBD then NIDB..

 

This shows that  NIDB has articles not found in AYBD but that AYBD articles are often far more in depth.

 

I choose the example of first fruits to demonstrate that sometimes the dictionaries can be close to equals.

 

So in my opinion for all it may be worth I find AYBD covering topics more comprehensively but NIDB has more topics. This should also be noted that sometimes a topic is simply a sentence  pointing you elsewhere.... So yes there are 8400 entries but some are like...

 

Ungodly. See GODLY. Not to say anchor and every Bible dictionary doesn't do this just this is partly how there are so many more entries with a smaller page count (AYBD 7200 vs NIDB 4800).

 

-Dan



#11 davidmedina

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 12:56 AM

Thanks Dan.

 

That clarified it for me. I am in the same boat as Guntis. I am budgeting for my next purchase and trying to decide priorities. I was concerned that the AYBD could be too academic for what I need and was looking at options, specially already having the ISBE and IVP dictionaries to round off a good set of multi volume dictionaries that would compliment what I already have. Specially for background information on history, places, people and things.  It seems like the AYBD is the way to go as my first priority.

 

Thanks again. 


Edited by davidmedina, 07 January 2014 - 12:57 AM.

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"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom. 12:2
 
Blog: The Renewed Mind.

#12 Dan Francis

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 12:57 AM

For what it may be worth, AYBD has  only B/W photos (to my knowledge) while most of the photos in the NIDB are full colour in the electronic version...

 

-Dan



#13 Dan Francis

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 01:02 AM

 It seems like the AYBD is the way to go as my first priority.

 

Thanks again. 

 

Keep an eye out for sales. They do happen and it can knock a sizeable chunk off  sometimes. The NIDB may not go on sale again for a while, but then for all I know when the NIB 12 volume is released they may put the dictionary on sale  or offer a bargain for buying both.. This is only a dream of mine but hey it could happen, I am not in a super hurry to get NIDB in Accordance I do own it in other software and while nothing in comparison to Accordance it works well enough.

 

-Dan


Edited by Dan Francis, 07 January 2014 - 01:03 AM.


#14 Ken Simpson

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 04:19 PM

For what it may be worth, AYBD has  only B/W photos (to my knowledge) while most of the photos in the NIDB are full colour in the electronic version...

 

-Dan

Not quite Dan,

there are a few colour photos (about 1 in 5 is my guess). But certainly the NIDB has more.


Edited by Ken Simpson, 07 January 2014 - 04:20 PM.

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#15 Dan Francis

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 10:24 PM

I just couldn't remember seeing colour ones in the AYBD, Accordance has so many nice pictorial resources though the lack of a few colour photos in a dictionary is hardly a lose.

 

-Dan



#16 Matthew Burgess

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 08:45 PM

It's interesting that the Accordance module includes color photos... I don't recall any color photos in the print edition (although I sold my printed volumes years ago after purchasing the Accordance module).  In any case, I would agree with Dan that the primary advantage of AYBD is its superior coverage and content; if you're looking for illustrations there are other tools designed with this need in mind.

 

Additionally, although the scholarly trajectory of AYBD is sometimes described as liberal, I've heard many more conservative users comment that they use it frequently and fruitfully.   



#17 davidmedina

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 09:22 PM

Let me see if I can explain my concerns.

 

Initially, I have one major concerned about the AYBD (1) that it may be way more than what I need, and a lesser one to some extent is (2) the alleged liberal theological bias.

 

My fear is that it is like when the History or Discovery channel announce a series on the Bible. Their interest is not to know God or better understand the Bible but to try to explain away what it says or to play it down.  So my fear is that when I read the AYBD I would encounter the same. So I am hoping that is not the case. The Bible is too important to me and it goes beyond mere head knowledge. I am sure you guys understand.

 

My main concern is that it may be more than I need and in a scholarly language that it will be over my head. In fact, I have read some of it and it used some terms that I have never heard before. But I am sure that if I had gone to Seminary the terms would have been familiar. I have also seen that in some of the articles it explain different points of view but do not necessarily pass judgement over any.

 

One thing I am trying to avoid is to buy books just for the sake of having "choices" when one or two are enough. I am sure it all depends of what one is trying to accomplish. Just because it is the best, the more complete is necessarily what one need. 

 

Digital version make the process harder because I cannot spend time examining both next to each other unless you buy them. :(


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Blog: The Renewed Mind.

#18 Dan Francis

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Posted 08 January 2014 - 10:11 PM

Let me see if I can explain my concerns.

 

Initially, I have one major concerned about the AYBD (1) that it may be way more than what I need, and a lesser one to some extent is (2) the alleged liberal theological bias.

 

My fear is that it is like when the History or Discovery channel announce a series on the Bible. Their interest is not to know God or better understand the Bible but to try to explain away what it says or to play it down.  So my fear is that when I read the AYBD I would encounter the same. So I am hoping that is not the case. The Bible is too important to me and it goes beyond mere head knowledge. I am sure you guys understand.

 

 

Digital version make the process harder because I cannot spend time examining both next to each other unless you buy them. :(

 

Both the Anchor and NIDB are somewhat liberal, but they usually give more conservative options as a choice. This is a good thing. If you are liberal it exposes you to all ideas, if you are theologically conservative it is important to know what others believe. Truth may be found everywhere. There is no seam between truth and love. The truth leads to love, and there is no love apart from the truths of the gospel. --Lewis R. Donelson, Colossians, Ephesians, First and Second Timothy, and Titus; Westminster Bible Companion

 

-Dan

PS: I am more than happy to share with you examples if they are in my library but i will do it in private message to avoid flooding this forum with more info than others may like.


Edited by Dan Francis, 08 January 2014 - 10:13 PM.


#19 Matthew Burgess

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 02:24 AM

Generally, I think that terms such as "liberal" or "conservative" are unhelpful in describing AYBD and other multi-volume, multi-author works... everyone has different understandings of their meanings, and any tool of this size and scope will undoubtedly contain a variety of perspectives.  Speaking from my own experience, I've never encountered anything "sensationalist" (in other words, reminiscent of a Discovery Channel or History Channel exposé) while using it.  I don't agree with all of the conclusions of its authors, but I think that's to be expected.  

 

If you haven't seen them, I would recommend reading through threads such as this one and this one, which include some discussion of AYBD as a resource for those with more conservative viewpoints.  I strongly agree with Ken Simpson, Dr. J., and other commenters who state that whether you agree with some or all of the hypotheses that are presented within it, it's really helpful to have something that tells you what those hypotheses are, and why they might be important.     



#20 Guntis

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 03:32 AM

Matthew, I've come to similar conclusions. I used to think about myself as very conservative, until I studied about the liberal theology. As you said, I can't agree with many of their conclusions, but they also have their points. It's good to know that the world is larger than my view. In my opinion it's important to know where you stand theologically, and why, then you don't have to worry so much about the "liberal" or "conservative" view points. You can see where they come from and where they lead to. But sometimes you have a wise companion for a while. :)
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“Teach the way of God in Accordance” (Matt 12:14, NIV-Accordance edition)
“Those who live in Accordance (with the Spirit) have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Rom 8:5, NIV-Accordance edition)




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