The Word According to Eve: Women and the Bible in Ancient Times and Our Own

From the publisher:
In the world that created the Bible, there were no female scholars and theologians, yet in the past four decades, owing to such stunning discoveries as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi texts, as well as advances in historical understanding and the rise of feminism, a generation of scholars has found new ways to interpret the Scriptures and the societies that created them—exploring avenues traditionally ignored by male-dominated religious study. Surveying the new scholarship and the personalities of those who have created it, The Word According to Eve not only explores afresh the history of our religions but offers exciting new challenges to our sense of worship.

Reviews

The New Yorker, September 14, 1998

Murphy himself—a scrupulous and attentive but rather reserved guide, who doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve—concludes that “the actual lives of women in antiquity … remain dimly apprehended.

The New York Times, September 6, 1998

The Word According to Eve synthesizes the major points of this new scholarship and sketches informal portraits of the women and men who have created it. Murphy does not omit stories of the frustrations of women who first broke into this male bastion, but he prefers to emphasize intellectual achievement: mastery of long-dead languages, acquisition of new techniques of analysis, the labor of digging up the physical context of the biblical drama, perseverance through rows of dusty tomes. His account is triumphalist; his heroines occupy endowed chairs at elite universities, surrounded by books that bear their illustrious names.

Amazon.com

Ever since Eve took that first step down the slippery slope leading to motherhood and apple pie, women have figured prominently in both the Bible and in the history of Judeo-Christian religion. Not until recently, however, has much attention been paid to their role. Until as recently as 1980, the Society of Biblical Literature (a sort of Modern Language Association for the theological set) had not hosted a panel discussion about women and the Bible. Much has changed in the ensuing years, with female biblical scholars at last claiming their rightful due and gender studies coming to dominate the field. In The Word According to Eve, Cullen Murphy reports from the feminist frontlines of theological debate, using portraits of top women scholars to illuminate the key issues at stake. The managing editor of the Atlantic Monthly, Murphy is a lively, funny, and highly lucid writer, singularly able to make academic theory both interesting and accessible and bringing his often quirky subjects to memorable life. (One noted critic, for instance, seems always to be uttering sentences such as, “I just came across an obscure reference to selective clitoridectomy for adult women who seem to have masculine desires” just as the waiter approaches their table.) In the foreword, Cullen suggests that feminism may just be the Bible’s “fifth intellectual revolution,” after the onset of Judaism, Christianity, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment. Whether they’re arguing for women’s role in writing the Bible or advocating Junia as a female apostle, these scholars easily justify his claim.

Publishers Weekly, August 3, 1998

Murphy, managing editor of the Atlantic Monthly, takes his cue from Catholic theologian David Tracy’s remark that the encounter of feminism with religion would be “the next intellectual revolution.” In a brilliant survey of the work of women scholars in biblical studies, Murphy provides one of the finest and most comprehensive introductions to the accomplishments of women in the field of biblical studies. Although he devotes a chapter to the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the groundbreaking publication of the Woman's Bible in 1895, he reminds us that only within the past 30 years have women been recognized for their contributions to biblical scholarship. Murphy devotes each chapter to a prominent woman scholar who is changing the face of biblical scholarship through work in archeology, textual criticism, translation of newly discovered or little-known texts, biblical theology and studies of the historical Jesus. Among the women scholars he interviews and spotlights are Old Testament scholar Phyllis Trible (Union Seminary), who was instrumental in using rhetorical analysis and feminist theory to provide fresh readings of the creation stories in Genesis; Karen King, professor at Harvard Divinity School, whose translation of The Gospel of Mary has helped to demonstrate the fragmentation of early Christianity concerning women's roles; and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, whose book In Memory of Her brings feminist hermeneutics to bear on the life and work of Jesus. Through the lenses of feminist biblical scholarship, women in ancient times, like Mary Magdalene and Deborah, Israel’s great judge, take on new life. Murphy’s book is a must read for anyone wishing to understand the goals and the results of contemporary feminist biblical criticism.