Biblical Archaeology Review 32:2, March/April 2006

Wrestling with Scripture

Phyllis Trible Obtains a Blessing, but It Comes at a Cost: She Limps

By Hershel Shanks

Phyllis Trible is surely one of the most distinguished feminist Biblical scholars in the world. In 1994, she served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature, only the second woman to serve in that capacity since the organization was founded in 1880. (And only two other women have subsequently received this annual honor.) She has received four honorary doctorates. From 1981 until her “retirement” in 1998, Trible taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Since then she has taught at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Her best-known books are God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (1978) and Texts of Terror (1984). Hagar, Sarah, and Their Children, co-edited with Letty M. Russell, will appear in 2006.

The following interview took place at her home in New York City on November 9, 2005.

Hershel Shanks: Was there a moment of crisis for you when the patriarchy of the Bible first hit you between the eyes?

Phyllis Trible: My life has unfolded in a somewhat gradual way—perhaps like a flower unfolding—rather than having moments of crisis. There are people who talk about their conversion experiences; they know the exact time and place. My story is not like that. I was always a feminist. It’s bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. I didn’t always know it, because there was not always a vocabulary for it. But once people started talking about it, it was a gradual unfolding for me.

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