Sometimes it seems that the major movement in special interest theology is to “get back to the roots” of your group or mind-set. Feminstic liberation theology is no different in that regard. It is searching for roots in order to be able to legitimately teach its doctrinal positions, which many of us men find very strange indeed.
The question of how they read the Bible the way they do, is something that has intrigued the author for some time. After often reading secondary literature about these women who, according to the people evaluating them, are “perverting” the message of Scripture, it was about time to see what these women themselves write, trying to do so critically, and yet trying not to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath-water, if indeed there is a baby to be saved.
In this paper we are going to evaluate this position through the work of Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, in particular her seminal book, In Memory of Her,1 in which she outlines her hermeneutical method and states her goal of “reclaiming ... androcentric human and biblical history as women’s own history”2 by “writing women back into early Christian history”3 so creating memories that will in her mind help women to rise above their oppression.
In our study we will first of all try to frame how she goes about creating these memories by examining the presuppositions she brings to the text. Next we will take a look at how she forms these “memories” through her hermeneutic and finally we will evaluate her “memories” from an Evangelical perspective, that believes the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, right down to the jot and tittle, and that sees it as a guideline for every-day living in all aspects of life.
But before we discuss her presuppositions, we must take a brief look at the person of Dr. Schüssler Fiorenza. She is of Roman Catholic background and owing to the fact that she received training in Würzburg, Germany, and the spelling of her name is very German, it may be that she is originally from that country.4
- 1. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Construction of Christian Origins (New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1984).
- 2. Ibid, p 29.
- 3. Ibid., p xvi.
- 4. The the first part of her last name is distinctly German as is the first name of her daughter (In Memory of Her is dedicated to Christina Marlene Schüssler Fiorenza – see page following the cover leaf). She currently the Krister Stendahl Professor of Divinity, M.Div at Harvard Divinity School. Bray mentions that she was teaching at Notre Dame and at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In all of these positions she taught in New Testament feminist critical liberation interpretation. She has written a whole plethora of books on feminist interpretation and extensively on the book of the Revelation of the Apostle John. It is also noted that she is the first female president of the Society of Biblical literature.
Sources of biography: Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation Past and Present (Downer's Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), p 510. F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, eds., “Feminist Theology”, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church ( 3rd ed., Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997), p 604. Cover of Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Jesus, Miriam's Son, Sophia's Prophet (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing Company, 1995). “The Faculty of Divinity”, Harvard Divinity School Catalogue, [catalogue on-line] (Cambridge, MA: Harvard College, 1998); available from <http://divweb.harvard.edu/catalogue/faculty.html>; Internet; accessed December 12, 1998.