Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book: Vindicating the Vixens

VindicatingCoverWell, if Vindicating the Vixens doesn’t catch your attention as a book title, I’m not sure what would. This volume, edited by Sandra L. Glahn (PhD), provides a look at some of the women of the Bible who are “Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized.” As is frequently the case, I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Let’s take this a stage at a time. First stage: book setup. This is primarily an academic Biblical Studies book. Be prepared to see discussions of Greek and Hebrew words, as appropriate. You’ll also need a handle on the general flow of Biblical narrative, a willingness to look around at history, and the other tools of someone who is truly studying the text. This is no one-day read. It’s a serious study of women in the Bible, specifically those who either faced sexual violence or who have been considered sexually ‘wrong’ across years of study.

A quick note: this book is timely, not opportunistic. The length of time to plan, assign, develop, and publish a multi-author academic book means Kregel Academic had this in the works before the current emphasis on sexual assaults. It’s a good book to speak on the issue, so it’s quite timely.

Second stage of book examination: authors. The contributors are graduate scholars in Biblical Studies with about half having completed doctoral studies and several others in process. All have worked in ministry and Biblical academics, and appear to reflect choices that will take the Biblical text seriously. That is, rather than coming to this subject in the interest of undermining the Bible to prove a point, instead these contributors are seeking to set right the understanding of the Bible.

Third, content. There’s nothing actually earth-shattering here, once you read it a second time. The first time, it’s all “Wait, that’s not what my preacher said…” (or worse, “That’s not what I said in a sermon!”) so the book must be wrong. But then, as you read through it again, there’s the realization that much of our understanding is traditionally informed. That is, we tend to hear from source A, who learned from Source B, and back it goes. And if somewhere up that line, an assumption was made and left unquestioned, it was then passed forward until the sermon you heard last week never questioned the idea.

Vindicating the Vixens questions some of those ideas. Glahn’s contributors take a look at women from Eve to Junia, and raise some very good points. Certainly some of the conclusions could be challenged, and it would be an interesting read to see the interplay. But I like the fresh look.

A good example is the examination of Rahab. I have seen previous attempts to make Rahab more righteous by going toward “innkeeper” for her profession. However, here we see her portrayed as the text gives it: she’s an outsider, a Canaanite, and likely a woman who rents not only rooms. Yet the redemption that God brings is amazing…and the Israelite spies aren’t exactly paragons of virtue. Throughout, Eva Bleeker keeps the reader going back to the text and dealing with the woman, Rahab, and what she means in the story, how she is valuable.

In all, I like this book. It’s timely, it stirs up questions that need to be answered, and it challenges some of the assumptions that we’ve brought through previous eras into our understanding of Scripture.

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