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A New Gospel for WomenKatharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism$
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Kristin Kolbes DuMez

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190205645

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190205645.001.0001

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Leaving Eden

Leaving Eden

(p.108) 5 Leaving Eden
A New Gospel for Women

Kristin Kobes Du Mez

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes Katharine Bushnell’s efforts to provide a new theological foundation for the Christian faith. Beginning with the book of Genesis, Bushnell rejected traditional interpretations that depicted women as weak, sinful, and submissive. Instead, Bushnell insisted on women’s equality to men at creation, rejected Eve’s culpability for humanity’s fall into sin, and denied the very notion that the first woman had been cursed by God and expelled from Eden. She contested as well the gendered translation of several biblical words (the Hebrew chayil, for example, erroneously translated as “virtue” when describing women) that contributed to the sexual double standard that lay at the root of Victorian women’s social oppression. Anticipating the work of twentieth-century feminist theologians, Bushnell effectively redefined what constituted sin and virtue for women and for men; men sinned in usurping power over women, she argued, while women sinned in submitting to men, rather than to God.

Keywords:   Eve, Genesis, chayil, virtue, sin, feminist theology, Christian, Victorian, sexual double standard

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