Feminist theologians draft ‘A Women's Bible,’ challenging male interpretations of Biblical women

A group of feminist theologians have come together to produce a draft of A Woman's Bible, meant to counter traditional male interpretations of women characters in the Bible.

AFP reported that the theologians, both from Protestant and Roman Catholic denominations across several countries, have put forth texts that challenge presentations of female Bible characters as weak and subordinate to the men around them.

"Feminist values and reading the Bible are not incompatible," said Lauriane Savoy, one of the Geneva theology professors behind A Women's Bible, which was published in French.

Along with colleague Elisabeth Parmentier, Savoy says that many people lack an understanding of bibical texts.

"A lot of people thought they were completely outdated with no relevance to today's values of equality," the theologian said.

Parmentier offered an account in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus visits two sisters, Martha and Mary, as one example of interpretations that A Women's Bible challenges.

"It says that Martha ensures the 'service,' which has been interpreted to mean that she served the food, but the Greek word diakonia can also have other meanings, for instance it could mean she was a deacon," Parmentier argued.

Savoy also pointed to Mary Magdalene, who they analyzed was the female character who appears the most in the Gospels, but is often portrayed as a prostitute.

"She (Magdalene,) stood by Jesus, including as he was dying on the cross, when all of the male disciples were afraid. She was the first one to go to his tomb and to discover his resurrection," Savoy said.

The authors explain in the introduction to the draft that their work is meant to "scrutinize shifts in the Christian tradition, things that have remained concealed, tendentious translations, partial interpretations."

Their stated aim is to expose "the lingering patriarchal readings that have justified numerous restrictions and bans on women."

A project with a similar ambition was the "Mary Magdalene" film, released earlier this year, which star actor Joaquin Phoenix said attempts to show a positive portrayal of women in the Bible.

The film, in which Rooney Mara portrays Mary Magdalene, stays away from presenting the title character as a prostitute.

"It's undeniable what an important figure she (Magdalene) was in this movement," Phoenix told the Press Association in March, speaking of the ministry of Christ.

"I couldn't help but think of young girls that are religious and have felt like their two examples of them in the Bible are either the virgin or the whore," Phoenix argued, referring to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Magdalene.

"And even if you're not conscious of that, subconsciously it has to affect you and the way that you navigate the world and navigate your faith," he added back then.

"It made me really excited, the prospect of young girls feeling like they're represented in a Biblical context in such a positive way."

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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