Reading the Bible as a Woman: Why Revisit Genesis?

It is my desire is to help women read the Bible in a fresh way. This will give them a new perspective. It will help them see the how the traditional reading, which is by and from a male perspective has introduced a bias to the reading.

I am very aware that this is a debate central to a reformation of the church and I have been engaged at its very heart with many others interested in biblical equality in the church and home over many years. My hope is that study will influence the church and thereby society in this and succeeding generations.

The questions I ask when reading the Scriptures are these: are the Hebrew (Old Testament) scriptures written only for the men of Israel? Are the New Testament scriptures written only for men, albeit now of all nations? Have male translators, interpreters and commentators constructed a community of male elites and thus women become the excluded other? How does this thereby marginalize women to the sidelines.

I hope my discussion will raise significant questions among women who feel sidelined when reading the scriptures. I also hope it will highlight how this damaging attitude is widespread and if not brought to a halt, will cause an ever-widening gap in the Christian community.

In the past scholars have identified and examined three types of marginalization and I will add a fourth.

      • the person between cultures or cultural worlds.
      • involuntary marginality of the ‘poor and expendable’ or of a culture or society.
      • voluntary marginality, based on a conscious choice to live outside the norms and structures of a given social system.
      • And my fourth: being a woman.

All women do not necessarily fit within the first three yet are identified within the fourth and by that fact alone, experience some form of discrimination and marginalization.

The focus of my study is women who identify as Christian and how the destructive influence of male bias occurs firstly in the interpretation of scripture and second, in failure to recognize women’s gifts and calling in the Christian community. This results in women being under-used in the church, to its detriment resulting in a negative rather than a positive influence on society at large.

I challenge the Christian community, whose elite members remain predominately male, leaders to examine and ponder their elitist attitudes.

Change your mind, interpret the scriptures in such a way as to be more inclusive of the women, all women not just those few token women deemed acceptable, so long as they keep to their designated place. Examine yourself and your attitudes. Study to show yourself approved, by all those you teach, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

Preach and teach in such a way as to show all the biblical characters, named and unnamed, had their important part to play in the formation of Israel, the early church, and the overall plan of God. By so doing you are in harmony with the Spirit of love, peace, and unity, thereby making the church of Jesus Christ prepared for his return.

Patricia Erlandsen

Reading the Bible as a Woman (RBW)

  My approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

Though all women are not the same, and we need to be aware enough to ask what women, and who, and where, nevertheless, all women know that the issues affecting women are interconnected. Therefore, to increase my own and other women’s understanding of the Scriptures, I began to engage in critical text analysis. To do this requires analytical reading and thoughtful writing. In breaking down and studying the parts, I became better able to evaluate past and present male commentators and interpreters of the text.

In so doing, a different understanding overall of the female character developed. Once understood, it changes the traditional conclusions previously drawn by male interpreters about the women’s roles and actions. Where women are concerned, all bibles available today, are interpreted by a number of men invited to function as a board whose theological stance on women will comes to the fore in their interpretation of Genesis chapter two. Theology is built precept upon precept and line upon line, thus other passages that deal with the same topic will be tainted as well.

There are a whole variety of contemporary frameworks for interpreting the Biblical text. That is the type of interpretive work that I am passionate about and which challenges and excites me. In the interpretation of a text, hermeneutics considers the original medium as well as what language says, supposes, doesn’t say, and implies. The process consists of several steps for best attaining the Scriptural author’s intended meanings.

The term ‘biblical hermeneutics’ is a common one in scholarly circles and it simply means investigating the broader historical-critical, socio-political, geographical, cultural and linguistic / grammatical context and underpinnings of interpretation. A growing number of scholars now research these matters and these explorations provide us with an ever increasing number of just interpretations of the women and the text. Finally, an application of truth may be made only after arriving at the correct interpretation. In this I encourage the woman reader to develop and arrive at her own truth.

I write from the viewpoint that the Israelites began as a matriarchal society, but interpreters have translated it from the beginning as a patriarchal one. Also, that the Scriptures are eternally centered in Christ and the whole material universe was created to reflect the spiritual realities that are hid in Christ. My writings show clearly that from the beginning to the end the overarching theme ultimately leads to the Believer’s glorification/consummation in the marriage supper of the Lamb: Christ and His Bride, the Church. My writings also bring a challenge to the woman believer to live the best life she can live. He is Coming Again!

My interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, for example, shows that God indicates in the first mention of a subject the truth with which that subject stands connected in the revealed Scriptures. God then makes the revelation of any given truth increasingly clear as the word proceeds to its consummation. The truthfulness and faithfulness of God become the guarantee that God will not set forth any passage in the Word that contradicts any other passage. It also means certain people, events, objects, and rituals, found in the Old Testament, may serve as object lessons and pictures by which God teaches us in the New Testament of his grace and saving power.

Patristic writers are also held to account for their infectious hatred of women, revealed in their writings. Where necessary, these are brought to the reader’s attention to help them become aware of the bias in interpretation in today’s teaching of Scripture. It reveals the nuanced and more recognisable gendered text, which once this masculisation of the scriptures is exposed, shows ingrained damaging attitudes and biased interpretation of certain words in, and whole readings of, and interpretation of scripture, that grossly impede Christian women’s full freedom in Christ.