Introduction

By Hershel Shanks

This is a wonderful time for those of us interested in biblical studies. The field is burgeoning. There are more books and journals and articles than one human being can read, let alone absorb. The field is exploding with exciting new ideas and perspectives.

At the same time, in society in general, we are witnessing a transformation of gender roles and gender perspectives unlike anything the world has ever seen since human beings first walked this earth. We are reassessing what it means to be a woman, and I guess also what it means to be a man. Our topic today lies at the intersection of these two exciting and enormously important developments, where gender studies and biblical studies meet.

The Bible is generally considered the most enriching collection of books ever written. For many, it is the word of God, Himself … or Herself … or Itself. You see the problem already. Before the advent of the modern age, the Bible was studied mostly from a theological or literary viewpoint. Modern critical studies have opened up a whole range of new approaches. We want to know when the Bible was written, how it developed, what claims it has to historical accuracy and what the biblical world was like.

The tools of archaeology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, comparative religion, and all the subdivisions and subdisciplines of each, are being brought to bear in our effort to plumb the depths of this great book. How would an economist look at the financial dealings reflected in the Bible? How would a general assess the military tactics and strategies? How would a political scientist understand the development of government and administrative institutions? It’s only natural that with all these new, and old, approaches we would also look at the Bible from the viewpoint of our new understandings of gender, the relations between men and women and their respective roles and attitudes in the biblical world.

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