Reading Scripture in the Presence of the Past
In using contemporary feminist questions and concerns as a lens with which to examine precritical commentators, one may argue that these traditional interpreters come off surprisingly well: they certainly do not neglect these stories; though prone to gender stereotypes, they can suspend their male bias when making ethical inquiries; they resist “blaming the victim” and do not categorically excuse the men, even when there is New Testament testimony on behalf of these Old Testament figures; and they frequently display signs of empathy and identification with the women of these narratives. Consequently, there is reason to consider that precritical commentators of the past and feminists today have both formal and material interests in common, including the use of various reading strategies to make problematic texts relevant, a desire to find edification in the biblical text, and an intense preoccupation with morality and justice. Even the feminist commitment to a hermeneutic of suspicion finds at least a partial corollary among precritical interpreters, though for the latter, the hermeneutic of suspicion is finally subordinate to a hermeneutic of charity and the presupposition that the Bible represents a coherent text.
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