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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Basic Assumptions

Despite these diverse interests and approaches, Jewish women's writings on the Bible share a number of presuppositions. Most important is the need to include women and gender issues in the overall study of the Bible. Implicit in this assumption is the view that biblical scholarship, while not ignoring women entirely, has generally overlooked the presence and importance of women. Thus to some extent women's biblical scholarship aims to correct a bias in mainstream scholarship. Second, while few of these works concern themselves directly with textual or literary reconstruction, many of them, with the exception of those taking a very traditional stance, do presume the results of standard source criticism, that is, they agree that the Bible in its present form took shape over a number of centuries and drew upon several written sources. They also agree that it is important to situate biblical writings within their context in the ancient Near Eastern world, and to consider social and historical circumstances to the extent that these can be ascertained.

Most controversial, perhaps, is the degree to which Jewish women writers accept or reject the fundamental assumptions of feminist biblical scholarship more generally: that the society reflected in the Bible was patriarchal in that it privileges men, and that the Bible itself is an androcentric text, written from the perspective of male interests, concerns, and activities. On one end of the spectrum we find apologetic works, often written by Orthodox women (e.g., Tamar Frankiel, The Voice of Sarah: Feminine Spirituality and Traditional Judaism [San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990]) with the intention of affirming the traditional separation of gender roles according to which women are relegated to the private, domestic sphere and hence excluded from public roles, particularly within the synagogue service. Such works reflect the influence of feminism insofar as they focus on the role of women in a way that is not usually apparent in traditional Jewish men's writings on the Bible, but they reject the feminist emphasis on liberation due to its implied critique of traditional Judaism. Such works will argue that traditional women's roles stem from the Torah and hence are divinely mandated; furthermore, they do not oppress women or imply their secondary status, but, on the contrary, affirm their elevated spiritual status.

Many other works, whether written by secular women (e.g., Pardes) or by women who affiliate themselves with the established Jewish denominations (Goldstein, Reinhartz), either implicitly or explicitly accept the feminist argument regarding the Bible's androcentrism and patriarchy. Rashkow (Taboo or not Taboo), for example, views biblical patriarchy and androcentrism as mechanisms by which heterosexual males defined themselves as the norm (p. 10). Niditch (“Portrayals of Women in the Hebrew Bible,” in Judith R. Baskin, ed., Jewish Women in Historical Perspective [Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991], p. 28) and Pardes both acknowledge the Bible as patriarchal and androcentric, but argue for the presence of “nuances” (Niditch) or “countertraditions” (Pardes) that subtly subvert or undermine the predominant patriarchal ideology.

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