Missing Persons and Mistaken Identities: Women and Gender in Ancient Israel

Phyllis A. Bird

Missing Persons and Mistaken Identities: Women and Gender in Ancient Israel
Missing Persons and Mistaken Identities: Women and Gender in Ancient Israel

Book Information

Pages: 304
Publisher: Fortress Press
Published: 1991
ISBN-10: 0800631285
ISBN-13: 9780800631284

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5 out of 5 based on 3 user ratings
Denver Seminary Journal December 5, 2009 5 5
A collection of significant essays written over the last twenty years by an important Old Testament feminist scholar. [Full Review]
This welcome volume is a collection of twelve previously published essays concerning gender in ancient Israel. Their original publication dates range from 1974-1996, although most date to 1987 or later. As Phyllis Bird notes in her preface, twenty-two years is long enough for the essays to demonstrate the progression in her own thinking and, further, to reflect the changing foci of historical and theological work in gender studies within biblical studies. For years now, Bird has been the most diligent and dependable of the historical-critical biblical scholars who examine gender issues. Her work is meticulously researched and encompasses a broad range of issues and texts. This is a book that should be on every Bible scholar's shelf. The essays are grouped together by topic rather than by date, and then arranged chronologically within the five topics. A few examples will suffice to give a feel for the whole. The first essay is also the earliest: "Images of Women in the Old Testament" (1974). For the first few years after it was published, this was the best article on women in ancient Israel available for students to read, up-to-date and historical-critical in method. It is a pleasure to revisit this survey again, more than 20 years later, in the context of the later, more sophisticated and thought-provoking work that it spawned. Depth of analysis makes the fourth essay, "The Place of Women in the Israelite Cultus" (1987), a major contribution, and those who are particularly interested in women and religion will find the fifth essay, "The Faith of Israel's Daughters" (1991), an essential read: it breaks new ground in the ongoing attempt to recover the religious lives and practices of ancient Israelite women. [Full Review]
This volume is a collection of essays written by the author over a span of twenty years. The author was one of the earlier scholars to employ a feminist perspective to the Old Testament and such a collection of essays is an opportunity to view the scholar's career together with the road that feminist analysis in biblical studies has traveled. The author herself comments in the Preface on how much she and her attitudes towards some of the texts have changed over time (p.1). After briefly reviewing the content of the book, this review will use the essays as a jumping off point to review many of the changes in biblical studies and feminist approaches to the biblical text. The review will examine: the nature and growth of resources available at the time of the earliest essays, how the content and methodological approaches to the stories in the biblical text have changed, and problems in the previous approaches and where new work needs to be done. The volume republishes twelve essays that originally appeared between the years 1972 and 1996. In the preface the author comments upon how she originally became involved in a feminist approach to the Old Testament, what the status of the field was at that time, how some of her ideas have changed. She notes that over the years she sees the sexism of the Scriptures as much deeper than originally perceived (p. 1) . The essays are then divided into: Women in Ancient Israel, Women in Israelite Religion, Genesis 1-3, Harlot and Hierodule, and Hermeneutics and the Authority of the Bible. [Full Review]

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